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Eczema types: Atopic dermatitis overview

What is atopic dermatitis? Often called eczema or atopic eczema, this is a condition that usually develops by 5 years of age and causes extremely itchy rashes that come and go.

Is atopic dermatitis contagious? No.

Millions live with atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis (AD) is common worldwide. People of all ages from newborns to adults 65 years of age and older live with this condition. Symptoms range from excessively dry, itchy skin to painful, itchy rashes that cause sleepless nights and interfere with everyday life.

Atopic dermatitis is common

1 in 10 Americans has atopic dermatitis.

Icon graph showing that one out of ten Americans have atopic dermatitis

In the United States, research indicates that African American and Asian American children develop AD more often than white children.

When a child has deeply pigmented skin, AD tends to be diagnosed later in life. Sometimes, the condition is missed altogether because it’s less noticeable. In brown or black skin, you tend to see gray to violet-brown skin discoloration rather than red rashes.

Common myths often fail to relieve symptoms of AD

If you or your child has been diagnosed with AD, you may have already heard a lot of information about this condition. Dermatologists often find that much of what people know about AD is based on misconceptions. Sometimes, these misconceptions can be harmful.

How many of these following misconceptions have you heard?

Myth: You can get rid of AD by finding and eliminating the one thing causing it. When speaking with parents who have a child with eczema, dermatologists often find that parents want help finding that one food or another allergen causing their child’s eczema. Before seeing a dermatologist, parents often say that they have already experimented with removing different foods from their child’s diet, such as eggs, milk, and nuts.

Fact: Years of research has proven that no one thing causes AD. It’s a complex disease that has no cure.

Removing foods from a child’s diet cannot cure AD, but it can cause health problems. Children need the nutrients in foods, such as eggs and milk, to grow and develop properly.

To provide relief from AD, dermatologists create a treatment plan that uses:

  • Skin care

  • Trigger management

  • Medication or light therapy as needed

Myth: Children outgrow AD. Although it’s true that AD often goes away on its own before a child’s 18th birthday, AD can be a lifelong condition.

Fact: There’s no way to know if a child’s eczema will go away or remain. To prevent AD from worsening and to relieve symptoms, dermatologists recommend treating it.

Myth: To reduce flare-ups, cut back on bathing. Because AD causes extremely dry skin, some people believe they can relieve AD by taking fewer baths and showers. Research shows otherwise.

Fact: Taking a short, daily lukewarm bath or shower helps. Bathing removes bacteria and other germs from the skin, which can reduce skin infections. Many people with AD get skin infections.

Applying a fragrance-free moisturizer to the skin within a few minutes of bathing helps to lock moisture into the skin and reduce dryness.

What’s the difference between eczema and AD?

Eczema refers to a group of conditions that cause inflamed skin. There are many types of eczema. Atopic dermatitis is the most common type.

Other types of eczema include contact dermatitis, nummular eczema, and dyshidrotic eczema. People often say eczema when referring to any one of these conditions.

While AD is only one type of eczema, it can develop on the skin in many ways. You’ll see pictures of AD and the different ways that it can appear at: Atopic dermatitis: Symptoms.

Last updated: 11/28/22