Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a chronic skin disorder that causes dry, itching, and inflamed skin. The rash of atopic dermatitis comes and goes. The term eczema is sometimes used to describe atopic dermatitis. Eczema refers to inflamed, itching skin from a variety of causes. Atopic dermatitis is the most common type of eczema.
What Are The Symptoms Of Atopic Dermatitis?
The most obvious symptoms of atopic dermatitis are intense itching, along with red, dry skin that is sometimes scaly. The worsening of atopic dermatitis symptoms is referred to as a “flare.” An atopic dermatitis flare can be triggered by a variety of factors (see below).
The appearance of atopic dermatitis varies tremendously from person to person. Most people with atopic dermatitis experience a short-term flare for a few weeks (acute), during which the skin looks red, raised, and cracked. Between flares, the skin may appear normal or slightly dry. If the rash lasts a long time (chronic), the skin may start to change appearance, becoming thicker and darker. These patches of thickened skin take longer to respond to treatment. The appearance of atopic dermatitis also tends to vary depending on the age of the person.
What Triggers Atopic Dermatitis?
Not everyone with atopic dermatitis will have the same triggers, so people with the disorder will have to keep track of their particular sensitivities. Because identifying triggers can be tricky (for example, sometimes there is a delay between eating a certain food and seeing a resulting flare-up), it’s a good idea to keep a journal of any atopic dermatitis symptoms and possible causes.
Some commonly reported atopic dermatitis triggers include:
- Irritants—These are substances that contact the skin directly, causing redness and inflammation. They include wool or other synthetic fabrics, soaps and detergents, perfumes and makeup, cigarette smoke, and chemicals (such as chlorine).
- Allergens—Allergens are more indirect triggers, where the skin becomes inflamed and itchy because of an allergic reaction, such as from pollen, mold, or animal and pet dander.
- Stress—While stress isn’t a known cause of atopic dermatitis, it can aggravate flare-ups.
- Temperature—Many people with atopic dermatitis have chronically dry skin that is sensitive to certain climate conditions, such as cold winter weather, indoor heating, or warm baths. Humid environments, such as a sauna, may cause sweating that could trigger a flare-up.