Atopic dermatitis (AD; a type of eczema) is an inflammatory, chronically relapsing, non-contagious and pruritic skin disorder. It has been given names like "prurigo Besnier," "neurodermitis," "endogenous eczema," "flexural eczema," "infantile eczema," and "prurigo diathsique".
The skin of a patient with atopic dermatitis reacts
abnormally and easily to irritants, food, and environmental allergens
and becomes red, flaky and very itchy. It also becomes vulnerable to
surface infections caused by bacteria.
The skin on the flexural surfaces
of the joints (for example inner sides of elbows and knees) are the
most commonly affected regions in people.
Atopic dermatitis often occurs together with other atopic
diseases like hay fever, asthma and conjunctivitis. It is a familial and
chronic disease and its symptoms can increase or disappear over time.
Atopic dermatitis in older children and adults is often confused with
psoriasis. Atopic dermatitis afflicts humans, particularly young
children; it is also a well-characterized disease in domestic dogs.
Although there is no cure for atopic eczema, and its cause
is not well understood, it can be treated very effectively in the short
term through a combination of prevention (learning what triggers the
allergic reactions) and drug therapy.
Since the beginning of the twentieth century, many mucosal inflammatory
disorders have become dramatically more common; atopic eczema (AE) is a
classic example of such a disease.
It now affects 10-20% of children
and 1-3% of adults in industrialized countries, and its prevalence in
the United States alone has nearly tripled in the past thirty to forty
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