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Atopic dermatitis (AD), often termed “eczema”, is a chronic pruritic(itchy) skin condition that affects about 10-20% of children and about 2-3% of adults.
It usually begins in infancy or early childhood. AD is closely associated with other allergic diseases, including food allergy, asthma, and allergic rhinitis (hay fever). This progressive sequence is called the atopic march.
The symptoms of AD include dry, itchy skin that can become swollen and cracked and can weep clear fluid when scratched. People with AD experience cycles of worsening symptoms followed by periods of improvement. They also have an increased susceptibility to certain skin infections.
Although the specific causes of AD are unknown, it is thought to occur from a combination of genetic, immunologic, and environmental factors.
Children whose parents have asthma and allergies are more likely to develop AD than children of parents without allergic diseases.
Approximately 30 percent of children with AD have food allergies, and many develop asthma or respiratory allergies.
The treatment of AD must be optimized for each patient, taking into consideration the role of environment, allergens, irritants, response to medication, and psychosocial stresses in the disease process. Patients and/or their families must also be counseled that AD is a chronic disease that cannot be cured but can usually be successfully managed with proper daily care.