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Atopic dermatitis refers to a wide range of diseases that are often associated with stress and allergic disorders that involve the respiratory system, like asthma and hay fever. Although atopic dermatitis can appear at any age, it is most common in children and young adults. Symptoms usually abate before the age of 25 and do not affect the patient's general health.
About one in ten babies develop a form of atopic dermatitis called infantile eczema. Characterized by skin that oozes and becomes encrusted, infantile eczema most often occurs on the face and scalp. The condition usually improves before the child's second birthday, and medical attention can keep symptoms in check until that time.
When atopic dermatitis develops after infancy, inflammation, blistering, oozing, and crusting are less pronounced. The patient's sores become dry, turn from red to brownish-gray, and skin may thicken and become scaly. In dark-skinned individuals, this condition can cause the complexion to lighten or darken. Itching associated with this condition is usually worst at night. It can be so intense that patients scratch until their sores bleed, sometimes causing scarring and infection.
Atopic dermatitis affects about 3% of the population of the United States, and about 80% of the people who have the condition have one or more relatives with the same condition or a similar one. Symptoms tend to be most severe in females. Atopic dermatitis can erupt on any part of the skin, and crusted, thickened patches on the fingers, palms, or the soles of the feet can last for years. In teenagers and young adults, atopic dermatitis often appears on one or more of the following areas.
- elbow creases
- backs of the knees
- upper chest
- palms and between the fingers
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