What’s Atopic Dermatitis?

12 January, 2020
Atopic dermatitis is a skin disorder that has become more common in recent years. A fifth of all children currently suffer from it. Although it often affects children, it can manifest at any age.

Atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, is a skin disorder that causes redness and itching. It’s more common in children. However, it can manifest at any age. It’s generally chronic, but can go away for certain periods and then come back.

Currently, experts believe that this disease affects about 20% of children worldwide. Although it’s slightly more common in the developed countries of the northern hemisphere, it occurs all over the world. Between 3 and 5% of children with atopic dermatitis will continue to suffer from it until they reach adulthood.

Also, the incidence of this disease is increasing. This is due to the effects of environmental pollution and unhealthy habits. For example, constant stress and poor sleep can make it worse. Although experts haven’t yet discovered a cure for this disease, there are several ongoing investigations.

What is atopic dermatitis?

A woman scratching her skin.

Atopic dermatitis is a skin disease that causes redness and itching in different areas of the skin. Moreover, it’s a common cause of excessive dryness.

Atopic dermatitis is a disorder that manifests as skin redness and itching. Atopic skin is characterized by its dryness. This leads to flaking and irritation, causing symptoms such as bothersome itching. Sometimes, it leads to the appearance of small aqueous bumps.

According to the Spanish Pediatric Association, atopic dermatitis can be classified into three groups:

  • Baby or infantile. This begins to manifest at five months of age. It occurs mainly in the face, except the mouth, nose, and the area around the eyes. Sometimes, it also appears on the scalp, ears, and back of the hands. It causes constant itching.
  • Childhood. This is a type of atopic dermatitis that begins approximately at age two and is maintained up to age seven or until puberty. Although it mostly occurs on the elbows and knees, it can appear anywhere on the body.
  • Adult. This type of atopic dermatitis manifests after puberty and is characterized by plaques on the skin, generally with abrasions. Also, it mainly affects the back of the hands, the skin of the flexure of the wrists, the legs, and the feet.

This article may interest you: Learn How to Help Relieve Atopic Dermatitis Symptoms


Science hasn’t pinpointed the causes of this disease. Nevertheless, we know that several factors can influence the onset of it or its aggravation. These factors are:

  • Genetics. So far, experts believe that the main cause of atopic dermatitis is genetic predisposition. The children of parents who suffered from hay fever are more likely to develop the condition.
  • Mother’s age. The older the mother at the time of childbirth, the more likely their child is to suffer from atopic dermatitis.
  • Environment. The disease occurs most often in polluted cities with cold weather. Also, it’s more common in dusty places or where people smoke.

Likewise, experts know that stress and insomnia can trigger the disease. Sweat also seems to influence it, as well as the use of nylon or wool garments. This disease often occurs in people with food allergies or other types of allergies.

You should also read: The Differences between Atopic and Seborrheic Dermatitis

Symptoms and diagnosis

A woman with atopic dermatitis.

The symptoms of atopic dermatitis include skin lesions with a crusty reddish appearance. The severity varies from patient to patient.

The main symptom of atopic dermatitis is skin lesions. They have a crusted and red appearance. Also, they’re accompanied by very intense and prolonged itching. This often leads to emotional problems due to how bothersome the itching is.

In infants, the lesions are vesicular and exudative. In children, the lesions look dry, leathery, and thick. Also, in adults, the lesions are leathery and are hyper- or hypopigmented. In other words, they either have little or too much color.

Those who suffer from this disease for a prolonged period have an increased risk of developing cataracts between ages 20 and 30. Experts still don’t know why. Also, they’re more likely to develop eczema herpeticum if they contract the herpes simplex virus.

A medical professional can usually diagnose the disease by simply looking at the patient’s skin. A skin examination and analysis of medical history usually suffice. Sometimes, medical professionals do some tests with patches. However, laboratory tests are rarely required.

Are you experiencing symptoms of this condition? If so, you should visit your trusted dermatologist as soon as possible. The professional will be in charge of properly diagnosing and treating you.

  • Garnacho-Saucedo, G., Salido-Vallejo, R., & Moreno-Giménez, J. C. (2013). Actualización en dermatitis atópica. Propuesta de algoritmo de actuación. Actas Dermo-Sifiliográficas, 104(1), 4-16.
  • Al-Shobaili HA, Ahmed AA, Alnomair N, Alobead ZA, Rasheed Z. Molecular Genetic of Atopic dermatitis: An Update. Int J Health Sci (Qassim). 2016;10(1):96–120.
  • Barnes KC. An update on the genetics of atopic dermatitis: scratching the surface in 2009. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2010;125(1):16–31. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2009.11.008
  • Thomsen SF. Atopic dermatitis: natural history, diagnosis, and treatment. ISRN Allergy. 2014;2014:354250. Published 2014 Apr 2. doi:10.1155/2014/354250
  • Kolb L, Ferrer-Bruker SJ. Atopic Dermatitis. [Updated 2019 Feb 22]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK448071/
  • Kapur S, Watson W, Carr S. Atopic dermatitis. Allergy Asthma Clin Immunol. 2018;14(Suppl 2):52. Published 2018 Sep 12. doi:10.1186/s13223-018-0281-6
  • Wen, H.-J., Chen, P.-C., Chiang, T.-L., Lin, S.-J., Chuang, Y.-L., y Guo, Y.-L. (2009) Predecir el riesgo de dermatitis atópica infantil temprana por factores hereditarios y ambientales. British Journal of Dermatology, 161 (5), 1166-1172. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2133.2009.09412.x.