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Eczema

Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a disease that causes itchy, inflamed skin. It typically affects the insides of the elbows, backs of the knees, and the face, but can cover most of the body. AD falls into a category of diseases called atopic, a term originally used to describe the allergic conditions asthma and hay fever. AD was included in the atopic category because it often affects people who either suffer from asthma and/or hay fever or have family members who do. Physicians often refer to these three conditions as the “atopic triad.” AD is not contagious. Research indicates that atopic diseases like AD are genetically determined, inherited from one’s parents. A child with one parent who has an atopic condition has a one in four chance of having some form of atopic disease. If both parents are atopic, the child has a greater than one in two chance of being atopic.

AD almost always begins in childhood, usually during infancy. Its symptoms are dry, itchy, scaly skin, cracks behind the ears, and rashes on the cheeks, arms and legs. It alternately improves and worsens. During “flare-ups,” open weeping or crusted sores may develop from scratching or from infections. Often the problem fades during childhood though people with AD have a lifelong tendency to have:

  • Dry or easily irritated skin
  • Occupation skin disease such as hand dermatitis
  • Skin infections including staph and herpes
  • Eye problems such as eyelid dermatitis and cataracts

Children affected by AD may suffer from asthma and hay fever at the same time, or one or both of these conditions may develop later. These diseases usually appear before age 30 and often continue throughout life.
AD is a very common disease, present worldwide, though it is more common in urban areas and developed countries. An estimated 10 percent of all people are at some time affected by AD (this may not apply in the tropics). It affects men and women of all races equally.

Written by Patrick Bitter Jr, MD

Patrick Bitter, Jr., M.D., is a board-certified dermatologist specializing in non-surgical treatments to improve skin health and delay aging and anti-aging medicine. He is the founder of Advanced Aesthetic Dermatology and maintains medical practices in Los Gatos, CA and Beverly Hills, CA. He graduated from the University of California with highest honors in Biology. He received his medical degree from Stanford University School of Medicine. He completed his dermatology residency at Stanford University School of Medicine in 1986. Dr. Bitter is regarded as the pioneer in the use of pulsed light technology for skin rejuvenation. He is the developer of the acclaimed FotoFacial procedure using pulsed light to rejuvenate aged skin. He has authored several ground-breaking scientific papers on the use of pulsed light for skin rejuvenation. He is a sought after lecturer and teacher and has taught over four thousand physicians world-wide in the use of pulsed light. Dr. Bitter has been featured as a celebrity dermatologist on ABC's Extreme Makeover. He is a member of several professional societies including Fellowship in the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine. Dr. Bitter has been a consultant to the medical laser device industry and to nutritional and anti-aging companies. Dr. Bitter is dermatologist for the San Jose Sharks National Hockey League Team. He is a former USA Triathlon National Champion and two-time Hawaiin Ironman Triathlon finisher.