• Reviewed on 12/09
    By Dr. Boguniewicz

Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema): Overview

Atopic dermatitis is a common chronic skin disease. It is also called atopic eczema. Atopic is a term used to describe allergic conditions such as asthma and hay fever. Both dermatitis and eczema mean inflammation of the skin.

People with atopic dermatitis tend to have dry, itchy and easily irritated skin. They may have times when their skin is clear and other times when they have a rash.

Atopic dermatitis usually begins and ends during childhood, but some people continue to have the disease into adulthood. If you ever had atopic dermatitis, you may have trouble with one or more of these:

  • Dry, sensitive skin
  • Hand dermatitis
  • Skin infections

The disease can have a significant impact on the quality of life of individuals and their families. The itching can interfere with daily activities and make it hard to sleep. Scratching the rash can irritate the skin, making it itch even more, which, in turn, increases the tendency to scratch. This itch-scratch cycle can leave the skin open to infections.


Do you have atopic dermatitis (eczema)?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, talk with your healthcare provider about atopic dermatitis. You will be asked questions about your health and your skin. Be sure to tell your healthcare provider if you or anyone in your family has had a similar rash, asthma or allergies.  

  • Do you have dry skin with an itchy, red or scaly rash?
  • Do you itch or have a rash in the creases of your wrists,
    elbows, knees or on your face?
  • Do you notice thick skin where there has been
    a past rash?

Find an eczema support group in your area.



National Jewish Health experts provided information on this topic for use on the U.S. News & World Report website.

More Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema) Information

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Pediatric Atopic Dermatitis Program

National Jewish Health is one of the leading institutions in the United States for treatment and research of atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema.  

Learn more.