Atopic dermatitis

Because everyone’s skin is so different, atopic dermatitis appears differently on each person. It also varies according to age.

Atopic dermatitis, or AD, involves dry, itchy skin that may become inflamed. This skin rash is chronic and recurring. AD is the most frequent type of eczema, which is a generalized term referring to many types of skin rashes that itch and become inflamed.

When flares are not happening, the skin usually shows no appearance of AD. During acute or short term flares that last a couple weeks, the skin usually appears cracked, ruddy, and raised.

Chronic flares of AD can alter the appearance of the skin, making it dark and thick. At that point, it takes longer to treat. 

A key symptom of atopic dermatitis is the characteristic itchy, dry, and inflamed skin. The itchiness and redness can become intense, and sometimes the skin appears scaly.

When flares happen, the rash and symptoms become worse. Flares vary distinctly from person to person, which means it is important for those who have AD to be aware of what triggers their flare up of atopic dermatitis. A good way of determining causes is to keep a record or journal identifying potential causes.


There are a number of things that may cause flares, such as:

  • Skin irritants: Chemicals like bleach or chlorine can irritate the skin and trigger a flare up of atopic dermatitis. Other irritants can be more common, such as cleaning products like laundry detergent or certain dish or hand soaps, perfumes, and some fabrics.


  • Stressors: Many health conditions are caused or triggered by stress, and AD is no different. Stress has not been determined as a definite cause, but it can augment flares. Recognizing and reducing the prevalence of certain stressors or stress-causing circumstances in your life can be a guard against an AD flare


  • Allergens: Skin irritants may be even more individualized, such as allergens. Pet dander, pollens, plants, molds, and other substances can cause allergic reactions that result in itchy and inflamed skin.


  • Climate and Temperature: Individuals with atopic dermatitis may be more likely to have sensitivities to certain climates and temperatures. This can range from adverse reactions to dry weather and cold on up to negative reactions to humidity and heat. And for some individuals, this doesn’t exclude air conditioning or heaters.