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Atopic dermatitis

What is it?

Atopy is a disease acquired through genetic inheritance. In the skin, it causes inflammatory lesions: atopic dermatitis. A person suffering from atopy, and atopic dermatitis may have asthma or allergic rhinitis. We often find a history of these diseases in the family.

Characteristics and symptoms

The main symptom is itching which may start even before the skin lesions become manifested. During childhood, lesions are reddish and scaly. May reach the face, trunk and limbs. With the scratching the skin becomes excoriated and may suffer secondary infection.

In adolescents and adults, the lesions are located preferentially in areas of skin folds, like the backs of the knees, neck and folds of the arms. The skin of these sites becomes thick, rough and dark. Despite of being usually located in these areas, atopic dermatitis can be widespread, affecting large areas of the body.

After childhood, atopic dermatitis may totally disappear but, usually, the disease has a chronic course (long term), with periods of improvement and worsening. Emotional stress can trigger periods of worsening and should not be underestimated.

Another feature of atopic skin is the tendency to dryness which can give rise to the sensation of itching and to scaling.

Often, after the disappearance of atopic dermatitis, it is often replaced by a different presentation of other forms of atopy (asthma or rhinitis).


The hydration of the skin is very important and should be avoided harsh soaps and hot baths. If you take more than one bath a day, soap should be used only in one. As soon as the bath is finished, with the skin still humid, moisturizers should be used to prevent dryness.

The lesions are treated using creams and ointments based on steroids or other substances that help fight inflammation. In case of secondary infection, antibiotics should be used.

Antihistamine medications help reduce and control the itching. More severe cases may require more potent medications for its control. The treatment of atopic dermatitis depends on each case and should be conducted by a dermatologist.

Related articles

- Contact dermatitis
- Eczema nummular

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