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Atopic dermatitis: Definition, Causes, Remedies

Atopic dermatitis: Definition, Causes, Remedies

Atopic dermatitis causes a lot of itching, and in some cases, embarrassment for people who have this condition. People mistakenly think that atopic dermatitis is contagious, which causes a lot of confusion and misinformation.

Aside from knowing what atopic dermatitis is, knowing how to treat it, and how to manage it is very important. Here are the things that you need to know.

What is atopic dermatitis?

Atopic dermatitis, also known as atopic eczema, is a skin condition that causes itchy, cracked, reddish, and dry skin. This condition is most common in young children, but it can happen to people at any age. It is a chronic condition, which means that a person who has atopic eczema will have it for their entire life.

This condition is not contagious, but it can be passed on by parents to their child. Atopic dermatitis causes discomfort, but with proper treatment and management of symptoms, most people with this condition do not have any problems in their day to day life.

Some people with this condition have flare-ups wherein the symptoms can appear without warning. After some time, the symptoms can disappear just as quickly as it started. It can sometimes happen that people do not experience any symptoms for years, and suddenly have a flare-up.

What are the symptoms of atopic dermatitis?

Here are some of the possible symptoms of atopic dermatitis:

  • Dry skin
  • Reddish patches on the skin
  • Mild to severe itching
  • Appearance of small bumps that leak fluid when scratched
  • Cracked or scaly skin

The symptoms vary from person to person, and it is possible to only experience mild symptoms. Flare-ups can also vary in intensity, so it is important for people with atopic dermatitis to identify what triggers their condition so that they can avoid it.

What causes atopic dermatitis?

This condition can be caused by a number of things. It is believed that dry skin plays a role when it comes to causing atopic dermatitis. This is because a number of people with atopic dermatitis have dry skin. This dryness can make it easier for triggers to cause a flare-up. Atopic dermatitis can also be inherited from your parents if at least one of them has the condition.

Some people with food allergies can also have atopic dermatitis, and it can be triggered by certain foods that they eat.

However, it is important to note that atopic dermatitis is not contagious. Skin-to-skin contact does not cause other people to get infected.

What triggers atopic dermatitis?

Food allergies

Eating milk, eggs, peanuts, soy products, and wheat, can sometimes trigger atopic dermatitis, especially for people who are allergic to those types of foods. Other foods can also trigger atopic dermatitis, and it can vary from person to person.

Skin irritants

Trying out a new soap, shampoo, or a different skin lotion can sometimes cause irritation on a person’s skin. For someone with atopic dermatitis, this can potentially cause a flare-up. Even dishwashing liquid or certain laundry detergents can cause atopic dermatitis.


Food allergies are not the only types of allergies that can cause a flare-up. Cold or dry weather, pet fur, pollen, and mold can also sometimes trigger atopic dermatitis.

Certain types of fabric

Some types of fabric tend to chafe or irritate the skin more than others. For people with atopic dermatitis, this can sometimes cause them to have a flare-up.

Skin infections

Skin infections have also been known to cause flare-ups of atopic dermatitis.

Hormonal changes

Some women experience worse symptoms of atopic dermatitis during pregnancy, or right before they have their period.

When should you see a doctor?

In most cases, atopic dermatitis causes minor discomfort and itching. This means that some people opt to not seek treatment, since their condition does not affect their quality of life.

But for people with worse symptoms, it would be a good idea to seek treatment. Worse symptoms of atopic dermatitis can leave the skin more prone to infection, and scratching can also cause irritation and infection on the skin.

This is especially true for children, since most of them can find the itchiness very annoying, so they might have a habit of scratching or picking at their skin.

Doctors usually prescribe moisturizing lotions to help moisturize the skin. For people with worse symptoms, corticosteroids might be prescribed to help with the redness and swelling.

Antihistamines or medicines that prevent allergies can also be prescribed by your doctor. Some atopic dermatitis sufferers with particularly severe symptoms might need to wear bandages or body suits to help facilitate healing.

What are some natural forms of treatment?

Atopic dermatitis can also be treated through natural means. Not everyone with this condition needs to go to the doctor, and sometimes, natural solutions can even work better than medication.

Here are some natural forms of treatment for atopic dermatitis:

  • Using natural moisturizers like sunflower seed oil and coconut oil can help prevent the skin from drying out
  • Stress can cause flare-ups, so any activities that can help you relax, such as getting a massage, can help with atopic dermatitis
  • Acupuncture and acupressure have also been reported to help ease the symptoms
  • For people who experience flare-ups because of cold weather, vitamin D can help manage the symptoms
  • Frequent bathing along with moisturizing your skin can also help alleviate itching and dry skin
  • Avoiding foods that trigger your allergies can also prevent flare-ups
  • Wearing comfortable clothes with fabrics that are soft are also helpful when it comes to atopic dermatitis

Key Takeaways

Atopic dermatitis might be a lifelong condition, but it does not mean that you need to suffer from the symptoms for life. By taking the necessary steps such as avoiding triggers and keeping your skin healthy and moisturized, you can manage the symptoms and live a normal life without any discomfort.

As always, if you think that you are experiencing more severe symptoms, or if your atopic dermatitis causes you to have difficulty in your day to day life, it would be a good idea to consult your doctor about it.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Atopic eczema – NHS, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/atopic-eczema/, Accessed June 09 2020

Atopic dermatitis (eczema) – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/atopic-dermatitis-eczema/symptoms-causes/syc-20353273#:~:text=Atopic%20dermatitis%20(eczema)%20is%20a,been%20found%20for%20atopic%20dermatitis., Accessed June 09 2020

Atopic Dermatitis | National Eczema Association, https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/types-of-eczema/atopic-dermatitis/, Accessed June 09 2020

Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis) | Symptoms, Treatment & Management, https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/eczema-atopic-dermatitis, Accessed June 09 2020

Atopic dermatitis | DermNet NZ, https://dermnetnz.org/topics/atopic-dermatitis/, Accessed June 09 2020

Atopic Dermatitis Treatment, Symptoms & Causes | NIAMS, https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/atopic-dermatitis, Accessed June 09 2020

Natural and Alternative Treatments for Eczema and Atopic Dermatitis, https://nationaleczema.org/alternative-treatments/, Accessed June 09 2020

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Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated Jun 29
Medically reviewed by Elfred Landas, M.D.