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What Is Atopic Dermatitis?

The word "dermatitis" means inflammation of the skin. Atopic dermatitis, also known as atopic eczema, is a non-contagious skin condition characterised by chronic (long-lasting) inflammation of the skin. Atopic dermatitis skin reacts abnormally and easily to irritants, certain foods, and environmental allergens and becomes flaky, very itchy, causing redness, swelling, and cracking. The condition is also called eczema, dermatitis, or atopy. There is a known hereditary component, hence the associated word “atopic”, which refers to hereditary conditions.

Dry skin is a very common complaint and an underlying cause of some of the typical symptoms. The skin on the inner sides of elbows and knees are the most commonly affected areas. Atopic dermatitis is a very common skin condition that affects a large percentage of the world's population.

It may be thought of as a type of skin allergy or sensitivity. Although atopic dermatitis can occur in any age, most often it affects infants and young children. A large percentage of atopic skin patients tend to have ups and downs over long periods of time. The ups are characterised with periods of improvement when the skin may clear up entirely. These are called remissions. Unfortunately the downs, or flares, are periods of time when the disease is worse, called flares. Many children with atopic dermatitis enter into a permanent remission of the disease when they get into adulthood.

Multiple factors can trigger or worsen atopic dermatitis, including dry skin, seasonal allergies, exposure to harsh soaps and detergents, new skin products or creams, and environmental factors.

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