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Atopic dermatitis, also called eczema, is a skin disorder that usually appears in babies or very young children, and may last until the child reaches adolescence or adulthood. Eczema causes the skin to itch, turn red, and flake.
Parents with eczema are more likely to have children with eczema. Different triggers can make eczema worse, including environmental stress, allergies, and sweating. Of children who have eczema, 65 percent will show signs of eczema in the first year of life and 90 percent will show signs of eczema within the first 5 years.
The distribution of eczema may change with age. In infants and young children, eczema is usually located on the face, outside of the elbows, and on the knees. In older children and adults, eczema tends to be on the hands and feet, the arms, and on the back of the knees. The following are the most common symptoms of eczema. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
Excessive rubbing and scratching can tear the skin and result in an infection. Some children only have a few episodes of flare-ups, while other children will have atopic dermatitis throughout adulthood.
The symptoms of eczema may resemble other skin conditions. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.
Atopic dermatitis is very common. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases estimates that at least 10 percent of infants and children have atopic dermatitis. Diagnosis is usually based on a physical examination and medical history. Diagnosis may also include the following:
Specific treatment for eczema will be determined by your child's physician based on:
There is no cure for eczema. The goals of treatment are to reduce itching and inflammation of the skin, moisturize the skin, and prevent infection.
A new class of medications, called topical immunomodulators (TIMs), offers a steroid-free treatment option for atopic dermatitis. These medications allow application anywhere on the body to relieve itching, redness, and pain from eczema. Tacrolimus is the first TIM approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In more than 28 worldwide studies, tacrolimus dramatically improved or completely cleared up eczema in more than 80 percent of patients. Another promising new TIM, pimecrolimus, has not yet been approved by the FDA. Side effects in both TIMs are rare.
Always consult your child's physician for more information.
Your child's physician may also prescribe medications in severe cases. The following medications are most commonly used to treat eczema:
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Online Resources of Dermatology
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