A Comprehensive Management Guide for Atopic Dermatitis

Jennifer D. Peterson, MD; Lawrence S. Chan, MD


Dermatology Nursing. 2006;18(6):531-542. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Atopic dermatitis is a chronic relapsing, pruritic, inflammatory skin disease. The latest in the detection of disease and its triggers, prognosis, treatment, prevention, and patient education is reviewed.


Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a chronic relapsing, pruritic, inflammatory skin disease. It is associated with personal or family history of other atopic diseases, including asthma and allergic rhinitis, and females are more frequently affected (Wuthrich, 1999). Sixty to 65% of patients with AD develop their disease before age 1, and by age 5, 85% to 90% of patients have developed signs of their disease (The Lewin Group, Inc., 2005; Rudikoff & Lebwohl, 1998). The etiology of AD appears to be the result of interactions between genetics, environment, skin barrier defects, and the immune system.

Over the last few decades, the prevalence of atopic dermatitis, asthma, and allergic rhinitis have been rising in industrialized countries (Spergel & Paller, 2003). It is hypothesized to be the result of a Western lifestyle and environment including smaller family size, migration to urban areas, increased use of antibiotics, decreased incidence of early childhood infections, and high socioeconomic status (von Mutius, 1999). Currently, the lifetime prevalence of AD is estimated to be between 10% to 20% in children and 1% to 3% in adults (Leung & Bieber, 2003).

The economic burden of AD is substantial with nearly $2.6 billion spent yearly on the disease in the United States. It is the fourth most expensive skin disease with prescription drugs and over-the-counter products composing a large portion of these costs. This disease also has a severe impact on the quality of life of the patient and the family unit (The Lewin Group, Inc., 2005).


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