Atopic Dermatitis

What is atopic dermatitis?
Atopic dermatitis is a chronic (long-lasting) skin disorder that causes dry, itchy patches of skin. These patches can be anywhere on the body, but are usually on the hands, elbows, feet, knees, and areas where the skin is creased—like eyelids and under the arms.

The cause of atopic dermatitis is not known. What is known is that the condition causes the skin to lose moisture. Without moisture, the skin becomes weak and can’t provide a protective barrier for the body. Skin becomes very easily irritated and responds with a dry rash, or “flare,” in the weak areas.

Scratching the itchy rash makes these areas red and inflamed, which in turn makes the skin itch more. Further scratching only worsens the skin’s condition. Many doctors call this problem “the itch-scratch cycle.” In severe cases of atopic dermatitis, the skin becomes swollen and cracked, with a “weepy” discharge, making it open to infection and other serious problems.

How is it treated?
Unfortunately, there is no “cure” for atopic dermatitis. However, there are treatments available that help relieve the symptoms. There are different kinds of topical (applied directly on the skin) prescription medicines used to relieve the symptoms of atopic dermatitis. Talk to your doctor about treatment options that can help you manage the condition.