Eczema is the term for a group of medical conditions that cause the skin to become irritated and inflamed. Atopic dermatitis, a type of eczema, is known as “the itch that rashes.” It usually appears on the face, hands, and limbs, and is accompanied by an intense itch.
Atopic dermatitis is the most common type of eczema. It affects approximately 15% of infants and children and 3% of adults in the U.S. Many people outgrow the condition during childhood, although some suffer with it throughout life.
Atopic dermatitis affects the skin’s barrier function—its ability to keep moisture in and irritants out. It also disturbs the formation of natural skin oils and reduces sweat secretion. As a result, skin loses moisture and can eventually become so dry that it cracks and fissures develop, allowing bacteria and irritants to penetrate the skin and possibly cause infection. While the exact cause of the disease is unknown, the good news is that it can be managed and treated with a good daily skincare regimen.