What is pediatric atopic dermatitis (AD)?

Updated: Jun 03, 2020
  • Author: Robert A Schwartz, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
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Answer

Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a chronically relapsing skin disorder with an immunologic basis. [1] The clinical presentation varies from mild to severe. In the worst cases, atopic dermatitis may interfere with normal growth and development. Treatment consists of adequate skin hydration, avoidance of allergenic precipitants, topical anti-inflammatory medications, systemic antihistamines, and antibiotic coverage of secondary infections.

Although often used interchangeably, the terms eczema and atopic dermatitis are not equivalent. Eczema is a reaction pattern with various causes and the most common pediatric cause is atopic dermatitis. Other causes of eczematous dermatitis include allergic contact dermatitis, irritant contact dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, nummular eczema, dyshidrotic eczema, asteatotic eczema, and lichen simplex chronicus. Eczematous reactions can be classified as acute, subacute, or chronic, depending on historical and physical characteristics.

The images below depict patients with atopic dermatitis.

Typical atopic dermatitis on the face of an infant Typical atopic dermatitis on the face of an infant.
Flexural involvement in childhood atopic dermatiti Flexural involvement in childhood atopic dermatitis.

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