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Atopic dermatitis, also referred to as eczema, is an itchy eruption of the skin. It's a long-lasting (chronic) condition that may be accompanied by asthma or hay fever. Atopic dermatitis is most often seen in infants and children, but it can continue into adulthood or first appear later in life.
Although atopic dermatitis may affect virtually any area, it classically involves skin on the arms and behind the knees. It tends to flare periodically and then subside for a time, even up to several years. The exact cause of atopic dermatitis is unknown, but it may result from a malfunction in the body's immune system.
Even mild atopic dermatitis can be extremely itchy. Self-care measures, such as
avoiding soaps or other irritants and applying creams or ointments, can help. See your
doctor if your symptoms distract you from your daily routines or prevent you from
Though the patches can occur anywhere, they most often appear on the hands and
feet, on the arms (antecubital fossa), behind the knees, and on the ankles, wrists, face,
neck and upper chest. Atopic dermatitis can also affect the skin around your eyes,
including your eyelids. Scratching can cause redness and swelling around the eyes.
Sometimes, rubbing or scratching in this area causes patchy loss of eyebrow hair and
Atopic dermatitis most often begins in childhood \u2014 between the ages of 5 and 7 \u2014
and may persist into adulthood. For some, it flares periodically and then subsides for a
time, even up to several years. Itching may be severe, and scratching the rash can
make it even itchier. Breaking this itch-scratch cycle can be challenging.
Infantile eczema often involves an oozing, crusting rash, mainly on the face and scalp,
but it can occur anywhere. After infancy, the rash becomes dryer and tends to be red
to brown-gray in color. In adolescence, the skin may be scaly or thickened and easily
irritated. The intense itching may continue.
The exact cause of atopic dermatitis is unknown, but is likely due to a combination of
dry, irritated skin together with a malfunction in the body's immune system. Stress
and other emotional disorders can worsen atopic dermatitis, but they don't cause it.
Atopic dermatitis often occurs along with allergies and frequently runs in families in
which other family members have asthma or hay fever. About three out of four
children who have signs and symptoms of atopic dermatitis later develop asthma or
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