Atopic dermatitis is an eczematous disease of the skin that lasts for a long time. It is a skin disease that is persistent. And it affects a large percentage of people worldwide. It is very common all over the world; and is becoming commoner.
Atopic is derived from the Greek term – atopos – which means unusual. ‘Atopic’ is used to describe diseases in which the tendency to develop allergies is inherited. And ‘dermatitis’ refers to swelling of the skin (skin inflammation).
Atopic dermatitis is sometimes called eczema or atopic eczema. Atopic dermatitis is the commonest type of eczema. Another name for eczema is dermatitis; and it is a term used to describe many skin conditions. It is not contagious – cannot be spread from one person to another.
It is a type of allergic hypersensitivity that is related to hay fever, asthma and chronic dermatitis.
It affects children most commonly. And affects both males and females equally.
This skin disease usually begins in childhood. It can be hereditary – the tendency to have atopic dermatitis is often inherited.
Atopic eczema/dermatitis affects the ability of the skin to retain moisture and so, the skin becomes dry, easily irritated and itchy.
A common symptom of this skin condition is itching. And the itchiness is a significant part of this disease, as it can cause the skin inflammation (which is characteristic of this condition) to get worse.
The skin areas that are most commonly affected are the face, neck, folds of the arms, wrists, and back of the knees. It can affect the scalp, forehead, eyebrows, eyelashes, skin around the eyes, the eyelids and cheeks. Due to all the rubbing and scratching, the eyelashes and eyebrows may develop patchy areas (that could be darker than the surrounding skin). The faces of babies who have this condition is commonly affected because babies drool a lot; and the frequent contact of the skin with the saliva (the wetness) irritates the skin.
In children, this disease improves with time or disappears completely. About half of the children (50%) who have atopic dermatitis will still have it when they are adults. In cases where it does not disappear completely, it usually gets milder as the person grows older. There is no way of determining whether this disease will be life-long in a person, or if it will go away. Treatment stops the condition from worsening and helps to alleviate discomfort.