Atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, is a non-contagious inflammatory skin condition. It is a chronic disease characterized by dry, itchy skin that can weep clear fluid when scratched. People with eczema also may be particularly susceptible to bacterial, viral, and fungal skin infections.
Why Is the Study of Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis) a Priority for NIAID?
Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is an inflammatory skin condition that affects an estimated 30 percent of the U.S. population, mostly children and adolescents. It is a chronic disease characterized by dry, itchy skin that can weep clear fluid when scratched. People with eczema also may be particularly susceptible to bacterial, viral, and fungal skin infections.
How Is NIAID Addressing This Critical Topic?
NIAID conducts and supports basic research in allergy and immunology that increases our understanding of the immune system and how it contributes to the development of atopic dermatitis and its complications. NIAID also funds patient-centered research to explore the genetic determinants of eczema and to evaluate new strategies to prevent and treat the disease.
A combination of genetic and environmental factors appears to be involved in the development of eczema. Children whose parents have asthma and allergies are more likely to develop atopic dermatitis than children of parents without allergic diseases. Approximately 30 percent of children with atopic dermatitis have food allergies, and many develop asthma or respiratory allergies. People who live in cities or drier climates also appear more likely to develop the disease.
Though there is no cure for atopic dermatitis, a treatment plan and some medications may reduce symptoms and help control the condition.
The skin of people with atopic dermatitis, or eczema, lacks infection-fighting proteins, making them susceptible to skin infections caused by bacteria and viruses. Fungal infections also are common in people with atopic dermatitis.
Herpes Virus Exploits Protein on Skin Cell Surfaces To Enhance Disease
Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) binds to a protein on skin cell surfaces to boost its infectivity and disease-causing potential. People with eczema are particularly susceptible to serious complications arising from herpes infections.
Video: Helping Kids With Severe Eczema
An innovative treatment called wet wrap therapy, combined with education on long-term skin care, can dramatically improve the lives of children with severe eczema.