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Eczema is a broad category that includes atopic dermatitis, irritant dermatitis (due to water, detergents, chemicals, friction, heat, low humidity), and allergic contact dermatitis.

Atopic Dermatitis and Exema

Atopic eczema usually appears early in life in infants 2-6 months of age. Infants and children have rashes on the shoulders, chest, abdomen, and back. Infants usually also have a rash on the face, scalp and around the ears. Children older than 18 months old tend to have rashes on the neck and in the antecubital and popliteal fossae.

Atopic dermatitis spontaneously resolves by puberty in most patients, but it sometimes recurs at times of stress or for unknown reasons. In adults it may appear as recalcitrant hand eczema or as a localized or generalized dermatitis.

Acute lesions of atopic eczema are itchy, red, edematous papules and small vesicles that may progress to weeping and crusting lesions. Chronic rubbing and scratching often cause lichenification and hyperpigmentation.

The classic dermatitis, eczema, rash triad of atopy consists of asthma, allergic rhinitis, and atopic dermatitis . Atopic dermatitis is associated with a personal or family history of atopy.

Atopic skin is particularly susceptible to bacterial and viral infections, which may become widespread. These patients may develop widespread herpes infections of the skin.

Triggering Factors

Wool or synthetic clothing, extremes of temperature, low humidity, and sweating may exacerbate symptoms.

Aeroallergens (dust mites, animal dander, molds) may exacerbate atopic dermatitis.