This is a common skin disease in children. It is so common that people have given it a few names:
To avoid confusion, we’ll use the medical term atopic dermatitis.
Children often get atopic dermatitis (AD) during their first year of life. If a child gets AD during this time, dry and scaly patches appear on the skin. These patches often appear on the scalp, forehead, and face. These patches are very common on the cheeks.
No matter where it appears, AD is often very itchy. Infants may rub their skin against bedding or carpeting to relieve the itch.
In children of all ages, the itch can be so intense that a child cannot sleep. Scratching can lead to a skin infection.
Because atopic dermatitis can be long lasting, it is important to learn how to take care of the skin. Treatment and good skin care can alleviate much of the discomfort.
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.
AD can begin early. A child may be 2 or 3 months old when AD begins. When AD begins early, it often causes:A rash that appears suddenly and:
makes the skin dry, scaly, and itchy.
Parents often worry that their babies are getting AD in the diaper area. A babies rarely gets AD in his or her diaper area. The skin stays too moist for AD.
When AD begins between 2 years of age and puberty, the child often has these signs and symptoms:
In time, the skin with AD can:
When talking about the thickened skin, your dermatologist may use the word lichenification. This word means thickened skin.
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:
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. Adults who had AD as a child and no longer have AD can have the following:
Around the world, between 10% and 20% of children have AD. About 1% to 3% of adults have AD. People of all skin colors get AD.
Most people (90%) get AD before their 5th birthday. AD rarely starts when a person is an adult.
AD is much more common today than it was 30 years ago. Dermatologists are not sure why. They do know that some children have a greater risk of getting AD. The following seem to increase a child’s risk of getting AD:
Researchers are still studying what causes AD. Through their studies, they have learned that AD:Is not contagious:
About half (50%) of the people with severe AD (covers a large area of the body or is very troublesome) will get asthma and about two-thirds (66%) will get hay fever.
Foods do not cause AD. But some studies suggest that food allergies can make AD worse. Children who have AD often have food allergies to these foods — milk and foods that contain milk (e.g., yogurt and cheese), nuts, and shellfish.
Before you stop feeding your child any foods, talk about this with your child’s dermatologist. Children need certain foods to grow and develop normally. Researchers continue to study what causes this complex disease. They believe that many things interact to cause AD. These things include our genes, where we live, and the way our immune system works.
Come prima cosa, per accertarsi che si tratti di dermatite atopica, il dermatologo osserva la pelle del bambino ed in un secondo momento farà delle domande.
A volte eseguono un patch test (cerottoreazione), che normalmente serve per individuare le allergie. Alcuni studi dimostrano che alcuni allergeni possono contribuire a far peggiorare la dermatite atopica.
To diagnose atopic dermatitis (AD), a dermatologist begins by looking at the child’s skin. The dermatologist will look for a rash. The dermatologist also will ask questions. It is important for the dermatologist to know whether the child has itchy skin. The dermatologist also needs to know whether blood relatives have had AD, asthma, or hay fever.
Sometimes a dermatologist will perform a patch test. This medical test is used to find allergies. It involves placing tiny amounts of allergens (substances that cause allergies for some people) on the child’s skin. The dermatologist will check the skin for reactions. Checks are often done after a few hours, 24 hours, and 72 hours. Studies suggest that some allergens can make AD worse.
How do dermatologists treat atopic dermatitis?
Treatment cannot cure AD, but it can control AD. Treatment is important because it can:
A treatment plan often includes medicine, skin care, and lifestyle changes. Skin care and lifestyle changes can help prevent flare-ups. Many patients receive tips for coping. Doing all of this may seem bothersome, but sticking to the plan can make a big difference.
A dermatologist will create a treatment plan tailored to the patient’s needs. Medicine and other therapies will be prescribed as needed to:
To learn more about the medicines and other therapies that dermatologists use to treat AD, go to:
Studies have found that when AD develops in an infant or young child, the child tends to get better with time. For some children, the condition completely disappears by age 2.
About half (50%) of the children who get AD will have it as an adult. The good news is that the AD often becomes milder with age.
There is no way to know whether the AD will go away or be a lifelong disease. This makes treatment very important. Treatment can stop the AD from getting worse. Treatment also helps to relieve the discomfort.