This patient information and photograph on Atopic Dermatitis is provided by John L. Meisenheimer, M.D. a board certified Dermatologist and skin care specialist based in Orlando, Florida. This information is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice or treatment of a dermatologist or other physician.
What is it? Atopic dermatitis, also known as atopic eczema, is a peculiar
chronic disorder of the skin. It can occur at any age, but it frequently begins in young children. Typically it appears as very itchy skin that becomes thick and discolored. There may be a personal or family history of asthma or allergies associated with the condition. Although most children will outgrow atopic dermatitis the condition may return in a few adults and some adults will acquire the condition without first having it as a child. Click here for other types of eczema.
What causes it? Although the exact cause of atopic dermatitis is unknown I believe that it is due to a genetically disordered immune response. "Atopics" have more sensitive, easily irritated skin, that has a natural tendency to itch. Atopic dermatitis interferes with normal skin functions that control the moisture content of the skin. Because of this "atopics" tend to have skin that is dry and prone to cracking and fissuring of the outer skin layers. Heredity certainly plays a role in some cases, because often there is a history of a relative having a similar skin rash, allergies or asthma. A rare individual may get worse after eating certain foods, but this is unusual and typically diet does not affect the condition.
Is it dangerous? For the typical healthy person atopic dermatitis is a harmless disorder. It is unrelated to cancer and it does not involve internal organs. A few very severe cases may require hospitalization.
Can it be cured? The treatment program I put you on will help control or clear the disorder, but it is not a cure. Many cases will clear up by age 3 or 4 but some individuals may continue to have problems even as adults. Even if the disorder totally clears up, you will still be predisposed to having repeat episodes. Repeat treatments may be needed and some individuals may require continuous therapy. We would be happy to help you with your Orlando Eczema skin treatment.
Will it spread? New areas of involvement may continue to form. Flares can be predisposed by stress, irritants, allergens, sudden changes in climate, etc... Treatment may help to prevent or control further spreading. Almost any area of the skin can be involved.
Is it contagious? It is not contagious and you cannot "catch it" from anyone.