Atopic dermatitis or eczema is due to a hypersensitivity reaction (similar to an allergy) in the skin, which leads to long-term inflammation of the skin.
Eczema is most common in infants. Many people outgrow it by early adulthood. The condition tends to run in families.
People with eczema often have asthma or hay fever, too. There is often a family history of allergic conditions such as asthma, hay fever, or eczema.
The following may make eczema symptoms worse:
- Allergies to pollen, mold, dust mites, or animals
- Colds or the flu
- Contact with rough materials
- Dry skin
- Exposure to environmental irritants
- Exposure to water
- Feeling too hot or too cold
- Fragrances or dyes added to skin lotions or soaps
Typical skin changes may include:
- Blisters with oozing and crusting
- Ear discharge or bleeding
- Raw areas of the skin from scratching
- Skin coloring changes — more or less coloring than the normal skin
- Thickened or leather-like areas, called lichenification, which can occur after long-term irritation and scratching
Both the type of lesion and where the eczema appears can depend on the age of the patient:
- In children younger than age 2, skin lesions begin on the face, scalp, hands, and feet. It is often a crusting, bubbling, or oozing rash.
- In older children and adults, the rash is more commonly seen on the inside of the knees and elbows, as well as the neck, hands, and feet.
- During a severe outbreak, rashes may occur anywhere on the body.
- Itching, which is sometimes intense, almost always occurs. Itching may start even before the rash appears.