Atopic Dermatitis / Eczema

eczema_on_armThis is a common skin disease in children. It is so common that people have given it a few names:

• Eczema (name most people use)

• Dermatitis

• Atopic (a-top-ic) eczema

• Atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis (AD) looks different in infants, children, and adults. The following gives you the signs (what you see) and symptoms (what you feel) for each age group.

INFANTS: AD can begin early in an baby's life. A child may be just 2 or 3 months old when AD begins. When it does start early, there are a number of things that might be causing it. Parents often worry that their baby is getting AD in the diaper area. Babies rarely get AD in his or her diaper area because the skin stays too moist for AD to grow well.  A rash that appears suddenly and:

  • makes the skin dry, scaly, and itchy.
  • forms on the scalp and face, especially on the cheeks (can appear on other areas of the body).
  • can bubble up, then ooze and weep fluid.
  • causes itching that may come and go.

CHILDREN: It can be hard to control AD in small children who want to constantly scratch itchy areas. Rubbing against bedding, carpeting, and other things in order to scratch the itch can make things worse and leave your child with an infection.

  • trouble sleeping because of the intense itching
  • Skin infections, common due to rubbing and scratching.
  •  Rashes may begin in the creases of the elbows or knees, but also neck, wrists, ankles, buttocks and legs
  • Extremely dry skin.
  • Skin that is easily irritated.
  • Hand eczema.
    • Get bumpy, looking like permanent goose bumps.
    • Lighten (or darken) where AD appears.
    • Thicken, turning leathery to protect itself from constant scratching.
    • Develop knots (only on the thickened skin).
    • Itch all the time (only on the thickened skin).Eye problems (eczema on eyelids, cataracts).There may be scaly patches when the rash appearedWhen not properly treated, the skin can develop certain characteristics:

ADULTS: It is rare for adults to get AD. Most people (90%) get AD before age 5. About half (50%) of people who get AD during childhood continue to have milder signs and symptoms of AD as an adult. When an adult has AD, it often looks different from the AD of childhood. For adults, AD often:

  • Appears in the creases of the elbows or knees and nape of neck.
  • Covers much of the body.
  • Can be especially noticeable on the neck and face.
  • Can be especially bad around the eyes.
  • Causes very dry skin.
  • Causes non-stop itch.
  • Causes scaly skin — more scaly than in infants and children.
  • Leads to skin infections.

If a person has had AD for years, patches of skin may be thick and darker than the rest of the skin (or lighter). Thickened skin can itch all the time.