Eczema and Atopic Dermatitis: Symptoms and Causes
Eczema and atopic dermatitis may seem like two different names for the same condition â€” and indeed, the terms are often used interchangeably â€” but there are differences. Eczema refers to a group of inflammatory skin conditions that count red, itchy, skin as symptoms, according to the National Eczema Association (NEA). We donâ€™t know the exact cause of eczema, but we do know that allergens or irritants prompt the immune system to work overtime. This hyperactive immune response leads to inflammation, which ultimately results in red, itchy skin.
There are several different types of eczema, but atopic dermatitis is the most common, per the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Atopic dermatitis is a chronic skin condition that usually starts in childhood and often runs in families, says Samer Jaber, MD, the founder of Washington Square Dermatology in New York City. Some kids outgrow their atopic dermatitis as they get older, but others continue to have symptoms into adulthood, notes the NEA. Atopic dermatitis is especially common in people with allergies and hay fever.
Building Your Own Eczema Care Team
Since eczema and atopic dermatitis are skin conditions, it makes sense that any care team would include a dermatologist. A dermatologist can help you develop a skin-care plan to prevent flares and reduce symptoms when they do appear, according to the AAD. This plan may include recommendations for skin-care and household products that are eczema-friendly, prescription or over-the-counter treatments for severe eczema and atopic dermatitis, and tips for avoiding triggers.
Allergists, for example, are trained to treat inflammatory skin conditions like eczema and atopic dermatitis, which are often tied to allergies, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Your allergist can help you identify possible irritants to avoid, and recommend effective treatments to find relief from symptoms.
Eczema and atopic dermatitis are common in babies and children (about 13 percent of all children in the United States have atopic dermatitis, per the NEA). If you have eczema or atopic dermatitis, or have a child with a skin condition, you can start by talking with your primary care provider or pediatrician about how to manage symptoms. You can also locate a specialist through any of the following organizations:
- American Academy of Dermatology
- American College of Asthma and Immunology
- American Academy of Pediatrics
- National Eczema Association
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