Reading the signs of atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis, also called atopic eczema or eczema, is an inflammatory, chronic or chronically relapsing skin disease with pruritus as the predominant dermatological symptom (Blume-Peytavi & Metz, 2012; Drucker et al., 2017; Wollenberg et al., 2018). The condition typically presents in infancy, with 60% of cases occurring within the first year, however, it can develop in older patients with approximately one third of adult cases developing in adulthood (Blume-Peytavi & Metz, 2012; Wollenberg et al., 2018). Over time, the clinical presentation of atopic dermatitis changes (Blume-Peytavi & Metz, 2012).

Changes in the clinical presentation of atopic dermatitis over time.

Figure 14: Changes in the clinical presentation of atopic dermatitis over time (Blume-Peytavi & Metz, 2012).

Skin features that are commonly associated with atopic dermatitis include:

Table 3: Common skin features associated with atopic dermatitis (Avena-Woods, 2017).

Common skin features associated with atopic dermatitis (Avena-Woods, 2017).


A recent prospective study of 356 adults with atopic dermatitis found that 41.9% of cases were adult-onset, with 24.4% developing after the age of 50 years. While many features of atopic dermatitis were similar between child and adult patients, such as body surface area affected and the Eczema Area and Severity Index, adult-onset atopic dermatitis was found to have distinct phenotypes with a lesional predilection for the hands and/or the head and neck (Silverberg et al., 2017).