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Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is the most common out of the different types of eczema. It is an inflammatory skin condition that causes red, itchy skin and affects up to 2.4% of the worldwide population.

While atopic dermatitis often occurs behind the knees or inside the elbows, it can appear anywhere. Some might experience groin eczema, eczema in ears, eczema on neck, and other areas on the skin. 

Atopic dermatitis most commonly occurs in children, but many adults get it. While you need a doctor to professionally diagnose it, you can often spot this type of eczema from its appearance of red, scaly, and flaky skin.  

Many people who suffer from atopic dermatitis deal with it their entire lives. They may experience improvement at times, but usually, it will come back. The severity of your eczema is usually determined by stress levels, the immune system, and environmental factors. 

Main Causes for Atopic Dermatitis

There are several causes of atopic dermatitis. 


Eczema is caused by a gene variation, which means that many cases of atopic dermatitis are due to a genetic link. Studies have shown that the heritability of atopic dermatitis is around 75%. If you have family members with eczema, you are more likely to suffer from it. 

High Levels of Stress

Stress can make atopic dermatitis symptoms worse. If you go through a period of high stress, stress induced eczemabecomes a high probability if you suffer from it already.  

Environmental Factors 

Many environmental factors contribute to an eczema flare up. Some common environmental triggers include air pollutants, animal fur, tobacco smoke, and certain materials (particularly fabrics). 

Immune System 

A lowered immune system often causes eczema flare ups. For example, if an eczema sufferer gets the flu, they might experience a worse flare up during that time. 


People are more likely to have atopic dermatitis if they experience other allergies, such as hay fever and asthma. Many of the triggers for these allergies may cause an eczema allergy rash to appear on the skin.

Some people may even experience only seasonal eczema because of allergies. In this case, they may have flare ups during the summer when pollen is at its highest, but not during the winter season. 

Atopic Dermatitis Symptoms 

For people who suffer from atopic dermatitis, the symptoms often vary. Some people might experience a slight itch with dry skin, whereas others might suffer from full body eczema that is scaly, flaky, and constant. 

If you experience any of these symptoms, you may have atopic dermatitis.


A variety of issues can cause itching, but it is often associated with eczema – particularly atopic dermatitis. Some sufferers experience constant, debilitating eczema itching, whereas others only experience mild itching. 

Dry skin

Dry skin and eczema go hand in hand. Dry skin is a common symptom of eczema and is usually accompanied by other symptoms like skin redness and itching.

Inflamed red skin

Skin redness is extremely common in people with atopic dermatitis. The area is often inflamed, too. 

Thick Patches of Flaky Skin 

Eczema sufferers often have thick patches of dry, flaky skin on their bodies. It could appear anywhere, from inside the knees to the elbows. Unlike other areas unaffected by eczema, the skin could feel dry and leathery to the touch, and it is sometimes not relieved by using moisturising creams.   


Treatments for Atopic Dermatitis 

While there is no cure for atopic dermatitis, there are plenty of eczema treatment options to help minimise symptoms. Find the right treatment for you, and many people can manage symptoms throughout their lives to the point where they don’t affect their day-to-day life too much. 

Over the counter treatments 

To treat the symptoms of atopic dermatitis, a fat cream such as Decubal Repair Cream is excellent for combatting dry skin. If you have eczema on face, applying this repair cream during the night can soothe symptoms like dry, itchy patches of skin.


People with atopic dermatitis should visit a doctor to receive a diagnosis and to explore the best eczema treatmentoptions for them.

The treatment provided varies on a person-to-person basis. Doctors could prescribe emollients, a type of moisturiser applied to the skin daily to stop it from becoming dry – this is one of the most common treatment options.

Another main treatment for eczema is topical corticosteroids, cream and ointment used to reduce swelling and redness when a person has an eczema flare.   

In severe cases, if the first treatments don’t work, the doctor may prescribe medications that work to suppress your immune system, such as methotrexate or azathioprine.

You can also find an eczema treatment over the counter without a prescription, such as hydrocortisone cream. Talk to your local pharmacist for advice. 

Avoiding Triggers

Avoiding atopic dermatitis triggers is a great solution for minimising symptoms and relieving the itch. That might mean using a different laundry detergent, switching soaps, and steering clear of pets. 

Eczema triggers vary from person to person. Some might get triggered by a particular type of food, while others can’t use hand soap. Here are some of the most common triggers for atopic dermatitis: 

  • Pet dander
  • Soaps
  • Household cleaners
  • Pollen 
  • Scented skin products
  • Opportunistic pathogen

Infected eczema doesn’t affect everyone who suffers from atopic dermatitis, but it is reasonably common among those who experience ongoing, severe eczema. It occurs when bacteria, viruses, or fungi find their way into open sores. That usually happens after a bout of excessive itching. 

The symptoms of infected eczema are: 

  •  Blisters
  • Weeping eczema
  • Extreme itchiness
  • Yellow or white pus

A trip to the doctor is necessary for those experiencing symptoms of infected eczema. The doctor can prescribe specialist infected eczema treatment to help treat it.

How Does Atopic Dermatitis Affect a Person’s Life?

The most severe cases of atopic dermatitis can have an extreme impact on a person’s life. Even less severe cases can disrupt a person’s day. 

The constant itching can lead to other problems away from the ongoing itch, such as being unable to sleep or concentrate. It can affect school/work performance and social relationships. 

There are emotional effects, too. Many eczema sufferers take a self-esteem hit because of how the eczema looks and how it makes them itch constantly. It can even lead to social isolation. Children in school might suffer from emotional distress and distance themselves from their classmates because of this.Atopic dermatitis doesn’t just affect the skin – it can also affect a person’s lifestyle and mental health. That’s why it’s so important to find the correct treatment to manage symptoms. 

Atopic Dermatitis FAQs

Is eczema contagious? 

No – no types of eczema are contagious. 

What is the main cause of atopic dermatitis?

Atopic dermatitis is caused by a combination of immune system activation, genetics, environmental triggers and stress.

Can diet affect atopic dermatitis?

Certain foods have been shown to trigger flare-ups, but the diet itself does not actively cause atopic dermatitis.

It is more common for a diet to trigger an eczema outbreak in children. Some common eczema food triggers include citrus fruits, tomatoes, nuts, dairy, shellfish, and chocolate. 

What is the difference between atopic dermatitis and eczema?

Atopic dermatitis is a certain type of eczema. Eczema covers a range of skin conditions on top of atopic dermatitis, such as contact dermatitis. 

Does eczema hurt?

Eczema isn’t usually associated with pain. Instead, the sufferer will experience itching. If the sufferer scratches the skin off, they may experience soreness from the open wounds. 

Who is most at risk of atopic dermatitis?

Anyone can get atopic dermatitis, but children and infants are more at risk of developing it. It’s less common for an adult to get atopic dermatitis for the first time, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

Is there a cure for eczema?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for eczema. Those with atopic dermatitis will likely deal with symptoms in varying degrees for life. With consistent treatments, home remedies, and prevention methods, itchiness and redness can be relieved. 

Is atopic dermatitis the only type of eczema?

No. There are many types of eczema. As well as atopic dermatitis, there is also nummular eczema, contact dermatitis, stasis dermatitis, neurodermatitis, and more. Atopic dermatitis is, however, the most common. 

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