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What is atopic dermatitis?

Atopic dermatitis, also called eczema, is a common skin condition characterised by itchiness and scaly skin. It is more common in children than adults and has a tendency to recur. It is an early onset condition, occurring as early as the first 6 months of life.

What are its main signs and symptoms?

  • The clinical picture of eczema varies from person to person but is typically characterised by skin that becomes dry and red with increased itchiness.
  • Scratching the skin results in a burning sensation, and even bleeding.
  • Often the condition presents as pus-filled eruptions, indicative of an infection. If infected, it can spread to other parts of the body.
  • Other symptoms include fluid-filled rashes and dark and creased skin. The area around the eyes and lips darkens in this condition.
  • The itchiness is maximum at night and can affect the sleep cycle.
  • Eczema is a chronic condition that can be accompanied by asthma, hay fever or other allergies.

What are its main causes?

  • Though there is no single cause, there are risk factors that trigger eczema.
  • Researchers also believe that it has a genetic link, with multiple members of the same family suffering from the condition.
  • Living in an environment with excessive pollution, or extremely dry and cold conditions also makes one susceptible to this condition.
  • Other factors which can trigger eczema are food allergens, pollen, woollen clothes, dust, skin products and even tobacco smoke.

How is it diagnosed and treated?

  • A dermatologist clinically examines the skin for eczema. The red, dry and itchy skin is typical of this condition.
  • Since it is a topical condition with an obvious clinical picture, no blood test or imaging is required.
  • If you or your child have a persistent accompanying fever or other systemic symptoms, your physician will advise a basic blood test.
  • Though the problem cannot be completely eliminated, medicines like anti-histamines, antibiotics and steroid creams can be used for relief.
  • Other ways to prevent the condition from recurring include identifying and avoiding the triggers, keeping a check on harsh soaps or skin products and maintaining good hygiene at all times.
  • Dry your child’s skin after a shower, and moisturise it at least twice a day.
  1. Medicines for Atopic Dermatitis


  1. David Boothe W, Tarbox JA, Tarbox MB. Atopic Dermatitis: Pathophysiology. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2017;1027:21-37. PMID: 29063428
  2. Journal of Clinical Investigation. New insights into atopic dermatitis. American Society for Clinical Investigation. [internet].
  3. National institute of allergy and infectious diseases. Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis). National Institutes of Health. [internet].
  4. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Atopic Dermatitis. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Public Health Service.
  5. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Atopic Dermatitis
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