Atopic Dermatitis: What It Is, Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Atopic Dermatitis: What It Is, Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Atopic dermatitis is a persistent condition characterized by itchy skin that becomes dry and scaly. It often exhibits a cyclical pattern, with periods of exacerbation and remission, and can manifest either solely during childhood or persist throughout one's life. In individuals with lighter skin tones, atopic dermatitis typically presents as red rashes, while those with darker skin may experience rashes in shades of brown, purple, or gray.


Atopic dermatitis vs eczema: What’s the difference?

Atopic dermatitis and eczema both involve skin inflammation. Eczema serves as a comprehensive term encompassing various skin conditions, with atopic dermatitis being the most prevalent type within this category.

What are the symptoms of atopic dermatitis?

The symptoms of atopic dermatitis can exhibit considerable variation among individuals, ranging from mild to severe. Typical signs of atopic dermatitis encompass:

• Dry skin. • Intense itching. • Swelling and inflammation. • Rashes in shades of red, brown, purple, or gray. • Presence of small, fluid-filled bumps or crusting. • Cracked skin.

What triggers dermatitis?

Atopic dermatitis is a complex condition with multiple potential causes, as there is no singular factor responsible for its onset. It occurs when the skin's barrier function is compromised, rendering the skin more sensitive and susceptible to irritants, allergens, and environmental factors. When exposure to an irritant or allergen leads to symptoms, it is referred to as contact dermatitis.

What foods trigger atopic dermatitis?

Concerning food triggers for atopic dermatitis, numerous allergens can contribute to its onset. Common culprits include peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, soy, cow’s milk, wheat, shellfish, and seafood.

Is atopic dermatitis contagious?

It's important to note that atopic dermatitis is not contagious. Even if an individual has an active rash, the condition itself cannot be transmitted from person to person. However, if the rash starts to weep, indicating a potential infection, there is a slight risk of spreading the infection to others through direct physical contact.

How is atopic dermatitis treated?

Several medications and therapies are available to effectively manage the symptoms of atopic dermatitis. These include:

Topical Steroid Creams:

Corticosteroid creams or ointments are utilized to control itching and promote skin repair. Strict adherence to prescribed usage is crucial to avoid potential side effects such as skin thinning or pigment loss.

Oral Steroids:

In severe cases, healthcare providers may prescribe oral corticosteroids like prednisone to control inflammation. Due to potential side effects, these drugs are used for a short duration and require strict adherence to instructions.

Dupilumab (Dupixent):

An FDA-approved injectable medication designed for individuals with severe atopic dermatitis who have not responded to other treatments.

Antibiotics, Antivirals, or Antifungals:

Prescribed if atopic dermatitis becomes infected, these medications help eliminate infections and alleviate symptoms.

Wet Dressings:

Involves applying steroid creams and wrapping the skin with wet bandages, typically administered in a hospital setting for severe flare-ups.

Light Therapy:

Beneficial for individuals experiencing severe flare-ups despite traditional treatments. In light therapy, controlled amounts of ultraviolet rays are applied to the skin. Caution is advised regarding long-term use, as it may increase the risk of skin cancer and premature aging. It's essential to follow healthcare provider recommendations diligently to ensure the safe and effective management of atopic dermatitis symptoms.


Establishing a simple skincare routine can be instrumental in preventing eczema flares. Consider the following tips to mitigate the drying effects of bathing:

Moisturize Regularly:

Apply moisturizer to your skin at least twice daily. Products like creams, ointments, shea butter, and lotions effectively seal in moisture. Choose a product that suits your preferences—ideally one that is safe, affordable, effective, and free of scents.

Petroleum Jelly for Babies:

Using petroleum jelly on your baby's skin may aid in preventing the development of atopic dermatitis.

Mindful Bathing:

Engage in a daily bath or shower routine. Opt for warm, not hot, water and limit the duration to around 10 minutes. Utilize a gentle, non-soap cleanser without dyes, alcohols, or fragrances. For young children, warm water alone is often sufficient—avoiding the use of soap or bubble bath, as they can be irritating. For individuals of any age, steer clear of deodorant soaps and antibacterial soaps, as they can strip the skin of natural oils and induce dryness. Avoid vigorous scrubbing with a washcloth or loofah.

Pat Dry and Immediate Moisturization:

After bathing, delicately pat your skin with a soft towel. Apply moisturizer while your skin is still damp, within three minutes of drying, to lock in hydration.