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Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema)

Atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, is a very common skin condition. It often starts with an itch. Scratching results in a rash — dry, red patches that in some people may bubble and ooze.

Atopic dermatitis: what you should know

When people say “eczema,” they usually mean atopic dermatitis. Technically, though, eczema is a general term that refers to a group of several skin rash conditions.

People of all ages get atopic dermatitis, but babies have the highest risk.

  • Studies suggest that atopic dermatitis is caused by an overactive immune system with a tendency to overproduce immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. IgE antibodies trigger allergic reactions.
  • Most children with atopic dermatitis will continue to have some symptoms as they get older. In addition, children with atopic dermatitis are more likely to develop asthma or allergic rhinitis as they get older.
  • Allergens (substances that cause allergic reactions) and skin irritants can make atopic dermatitis worse. Specialists at Rush can do tests to help figure out what substances you should avoid.

How can I get help for atopic dermatitis?

These are the most common symptoms of atopic dermatitis:

  • Dry and itchy skin
  • A red rash, particularly on your face, the folds of your arms and the backs of your knees, or on hands and feet

Doctors at Rush can examine your symptoms and draw on their expertise to find the root of your problems. They might test you for allergies, which can make atopic dermatitis worse.

Care for atopic dermatitis at Rush

If you have been diagnosed with atopic dermatitis, your treatment at Rush might involve one or more of the following:

  • Mild skin cleansers and moisturizers that might calm skin and lower the risk of flares
  • Topical and oral medications to reduce inflammation
  • Light therapy, which can help prevent the exaggerated immune response that leads to inflammation
  • Allergy testing to determine which allergens might be causing flares

Why choose Rush for atopic dermatitis care

  • The Department of Dermatology has pediatric and adult dermatologists who are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of atopic dermatitis.
  • Through the Division of Allergy and Immunology, you can get comprehensive allergy testing to determine which substances might be triggering flares.
  • Many people with atopic dermatitis also have asthma or allergic rhinitis. That’s why Rush has a center where doctors work with children and adults to deal with all of these related problems at the same time.
  • The Dermatology Department has a clinical pharmacology unit devoted to testing new treatments for skin conditions.

Departments and programs that treat this condition