Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a skin condition. It’s the most common and often the most severe form of eczema. People with AD have areas of their skin that become red or very itchy. These areas can also crack and leak clear fluid. The itchiness may lead to scratching so much that the skin breaks. When the skin is broken, it’s easier to get skin infections, including bacteria and viruses like herpes. You can get AD anywhere on their body. But, it’s common around the face, neck, elbows and knees. AD is often seen in young children. But, a person can get AD at any age.
Sometimes your skin may improve, or the AD may even seem to go away (remission). But, AD is a chronic condition that can get worse or come back. This is called a flare-up. Certain things can trigger flare-ups like stress, certain soaps or cold weather. Talk to your doctor about your triggers and how to avoid them. Living with AD can be hard. But, sticking to your treatments can help control your symptoms.
It’s not clear what causes AD. But, your immune system may play a role in changes to the skin. Your skin helps keep out things that irritate your body, or cause allergic reactions or infection. Your skin helps keep in the moisture that it needs to stay healthy. This is done with a protein called filaggrin. This protein keeps the outside layer of skin strong. If the filaggrin doesn’t work or there isn’t enough of it, the skin isn’t able to protect you. Some people have a gene that keeps the body from making enough filaggrin. The skin can get very dry and itchy. Bacteria and other germs can go through the skin and cause infection. When this happens, your immune system does its job and attacks what comes through the skin. But if your immune system doesn’t “turn off” when it should, it can start attacking healthy skin cells. This is why AD is called an autoimmune disease.
Some people with AD also have other complications due to itching. This may include asthma, hay fever, skin infections, sleep problems and patches that are thick and leathery.
Medications are available to help control and treat AD. Proper skin care and other lifestyle changes and also help.