Eczema

    Atopic dermatitis is a chronic (long-lasting) disease that affects
    the skin. It is not contagious; it cannot be passed from one person to another.
    The word “dermatitis” means inflammation of the skin. “Atopic” refers to a group
    of diseases where there is often an inherited tendency to develop other allergic
    conditions, such as asthma and hay fever. In atopic dermatitis, the skin becomes
    extremely itchy. Scratching leads to redness, swelling, cracking, “weeping”
    clear fluid, and finally, crusting and scaling. In most cases, there are periods
    of time when the disease is worse (called exacerbations or flares) followed by
    periods when the skin improves or clears up entirely (called remissions). As
    some children with atopic dermatitis grow older, their skin disease improves or
    disappears altogether, although their skin often remains dry and easily
    irritated. In others, atopic dermatitis continues to be a significant problem in
    adulthood.

    Atopic dermatitis is often referred to as “eczema,” which is a
    general term for the several types of inflammation of the skin. Atopic
    dermatitis is the most common of the many types of eczema. Several have very
    similar symptoms. Types of eczema are described in the box on page 5.

    Incidence and Prevalence of Atopic Dermatitis

    Atopic dermatitis is very common. It affects males and females and
    accounts for 10 to 20 percent of all visits to dermatologists (doctors who
    specialize in the care and treatment of skin diseases). Although atopic
    dermatitis may occur at any age, it most often begins in infancy and childhood.
    Scientists estimate that 65 percent of patients develop symptoms in the first
    year of life, and 90 percent develop symptoms before the age of 5. Onset after
    age 30 is less common and is often due to exposure of the skin to harsh or wet
    conditions. Atopic dermatitis is a common cause of workplace disability. People
    who live in cities and in dry climates appear more likely to develop this
    condition.

    Although it is difficult to identify exactly how many people are
    affected by atopic dermatitis, an estimated 20 percent of infants and young
    children experience symptoms of the disease. Roughly 60 percent of these infants
    continue to have one or more symptoms of atopic dermatitis in adulthood. This
    means that more than 15 million people in the United States have symptoms of the
    disease.

    Types of Eczema (Dermatitis)

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