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Atopic dermatitis (eczema): Pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis

William L Weston, MD
William Howe, MD
Section Editors
Robert P Dellavalle, MD, PhD, MSPH
Moise L Levy, MD
Joseph Fowler, MD
Deputy Editor
Rosamaria Corona, MD, DSc


Atopic dermatitis is a chronic pruritic inflammatory skin disease that occurs most frequently in children, but also affects adults. Atopic dermatitis is often associated with elevated serum level of immunoglobulin E and a personal or family history of atopy, which describes a group of disorders that includes eczema, asthma, and allergic rhinitis [1,2]. Although sensitization to environmental or food allergens is clearly associated with the atopic dermatitis phenotype, it does not seem to be a causative factor but may be a contributory factor in a subgroup of patients with severe disease [3]. (See "Role of allergy in atopic dermatitis (eczema)".)

The terms "dermatitis" and "eczema" are frequently used interchangeably. When the term "eczema" is used alone, it often refers to atopic dermatitis (atopic eczema). The term "eczematous" also connotes some crusting, serous oozing, or blister formation as opposed to mere erythema and scale.

The epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis of atopic dermatitis are reviewed here. The treatment of atopic dermatitis, the role of allergy in atopic dermatitis, and other types of eczematous dermatitis are discussed separately.

(See "Treatment of atopic dermatitis (eczema)".)

(See "Management of severe refractory atopic dermatitis (eczema)".)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Oct 11, 2017.
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