Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)

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.

To learn about risk factors for eczema, different types of eczema and current prevention and treatment strategies visit the National Library of Medicine page on eczema.

Photo of the back of the knee of a child suffering from eczema.

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic condition that causes the skin to become extremely itchy.

Credit: 

NIAID
Causes & Strategies for Prevention

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.

Treatment

Though there is no cure for atopic dermatitis, a treatment plan and some medications may reduce symptoms and help control the condition.

Complications

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.

For Researchers: 

Networks & Collaborations

Atopic Dermatitis Research Network scientists aim to understand immune system responses in the skin by comparing responses to viral and bacterial skin infections in healthy individuals with those in people with atopic dermatitis.