How much do you know about AD? Do you know if the following statements about atopic dermatitis (AD) are true? Click on the boxes to find out.

'Atopic dermatitis' is the same as 'eczema'.

    Not exactly.1,2

    Eczema is a general term for any of several conditions that results in dry, itchy, inflamed skin.1,2 AD is a specific type of chronic eczema, the most common kind, that is in part caused by an overactive immune system.1,2

    So, while it’s true that everyone who has AD has eczema, not everyone who has eczema has AD.1,2 If you have symptoms that sound like either condition, it’s good to see a doctor to get properly diagnosed.

    Want to learn more about AD? Head on over to: Understanding Atopic Dermatitis: What is Atopic Dermatitis

    Quite often, people will say ‘atopic eczema’ or just ‘eczema’ when they are actually talking about AD. To prevent confusion, it’s best to use the term ‘atopic dermatitis’ when referring to AD.

    Check out the different terms used when talking about AD here:  Atopic Dermatitis Dictionary

If your AD treatment isn’t working, nothing else can be done.

    Luckily, this may not be true.3,4

    It can be frustrating when a treatment is not working, but that doesn’t mean control is impossible.3,4  

    We are learning more about AD all the time, discovering new ways to help manage it.3,4  If your AD is out of control and making life challenging, talk to your doctor about what else can be done. You might need a different approach, one that looks at long-term control of AD symptoms.3,4  

    Learn new strategies for controlling AD  or explore the latest information about treatments

AD is contagious, you catch it by skin-to-skin contact.

    Don’t worry, this is totally false.5,6

    AD is not contagious, so you can’t catch it if your skin touches someone with AD.5,6 This also means that if you do have AD, you also can’t pass it on to anyone by touching them.5,6

    While AD is caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and immunologic factors - skin contact is not one of the causes of AD.5,6

    Curious about the true causes of AD? Learn more here: Understanding Atopic Dermatitis: What Causes Atopic Dermatitis

AD looks the same on all skin tones.

    Not quite true.7,8

    AD can look different depending on the color of your skin.7,8 Generally, on lighter skin rashes appear red, while on darker skin the rash may be purple, brown or grey.7,8

    Ethnicity can also affect how AD affects the skin. For example, Asians are more likely to have rashes with patches of thicker skin or scaling.7,8

    How might an AD rash look like? See some examples here: Understanding Atopic Dermatitis: What Causes Atopic Dermatitis

AD starts during childhood.

    True for some, but not for all.9,10

    AD usually develops early, in children aged six months to 5 years.9,10 However, some people with no symptoms as children start developing AD later on, as teenagers or adults.9,10

    For some children, symptoms will lessen as they get older, while others will have flare-ups all throughout their lives.9,10 Thankfully, there are many treatment options for AD at any age, so the earlier you are seen by a doctor, the better.9,10

    Learn more about AD in childhood here: Understanding Atopic Dermatitis: Atopic Dermatitis in Children

If you have AD, your immune system is attacking you.

    False. AD is not an autoimmune disease.11,12

    AD is caused by several factors.11,12 An overactive immune system is just one of them. 11,12 The imbalance in your immune system causes inflammation, ultimately leading to symptoms that you can see and feel.11,12

    That’s why AD is not considered an autoimmune disease.11,12 Your immune system isn’t attacking you, it’s just overactive. 11,12 Some treatments try to address this issue by targeting the immune system.13,14

    To find out more about the causes of AD, check this out: Understanding Atopic Dermatitis: What Causes Atopic Dermatitis

Certain foods can make AD worse.

    True for some people.15,16

    If you have a food allergy, it can contribute to AD flare-ups.15,16  Avoiding foods you are allergic to can help you control your symptoms.15,16

    However, not everyone who has AD has food allergies.17-19 If you are not sure that you have a food allergy, talk to your doctor first.15,16 Don’t just remove certain foods from your diet, as this might not be good for you and may not really be making your AD better.15,16

    Learn more about how diet affects AD here: Living with Atopic Dermatitis: Food and Atopic Dermatitis

Dietary supplements can cure AD and prevent symptoms.

    False, AD is a chronic condition with no definite cure.20,21

    Thankfully, there are many proven treatments that can help control AD.22 Unfortunately, there is not enough scientific proof that dietary supplements improve symptoms any more than conventional treatment.20,21 This is why they aren’t recommended to replace conventional AD management. 20,21

    If you are considering supplements for AD, talk to you doctor first.

    A more in-depth discussion can be found here: Living with Atopic Dermatitis: Dietary Supplements for Atopic Dermatitis, Do They Work?

AD is just a skin condition.

    False. AD is more than skin deep.23,24

    Chronic, uncontrolled AD doesn’t just affect other aspects of your physical health, it can also have significant impact on quality of life; including sleep, relationships, and mental well-being.23,24 

    Diagnosis and effective management of AD is therefore important, with the goal of achieving long-term control of symptoms and flares.23,24

    Learn about other health conditions associated with AD here: Understanding Atopic Dermatitis: Atopic Dermatitis and Related Diseases

If you stop scratching, the itch will go away.

    False, the underlying cause needs to be addressed.13,14,22,25,26

    It’s true there is an itch-scratch cycle in AD, where scratching results in making the condition worse.25,26 However, the itchy sensation will not go away if you simply stop scratching.25,26

    The Itch-Scratch Cycle

    Itchiness is a result of multiple factors, including dry skin, flares, exposure to irritants, and ongoing skin inflammation due to an overactive immune system.1,2,25,26 If you want to stop the itch, you’ll need learn how to live with AD and use effective treatments to help keep it under control. 1,2,22,25,26

    Learn more about living with AD  and different treatment options.

If you have AD, you’re more prone to allergies.

    Sadly, this is true.27,28

    AD is related to allergic conditions, involving a similar overactive immune response.27,28 This is why people with AD have an increased likelihood of developing allergic conditions like asthma and hay fever.27,28

    Genetics also plays a factor, as both AD and allergies can run in families.27,28 If you have a family history of allergies, you and all your close relatives are also at higher risk of developing AD.27,28

    Learn about allergies and other health conditions associated with AD here: Understanding Atopic Dermatitis: Atopic Dermatitis and Related Diseases

If you haven’t had a flare in a while, your AD has gone away.

    Unfortunately, this is false.29,30

    AD is a chronic condition with no definitive cure.1,2,20,21 Even if you haven’t experienced any skin rashes or itchiness in a long time, there may still be underlying inflammation beneath the skin.29,30

    It’s important to always be prepared and not to get upset when a flare does happen.3,4,22 To help keep your AD symptoms under long-term control, ask your doctor about treatments designed to address the underlying inflammation.22

    Learn more new and exciting treatment options here: Treatment Options.


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  13. Deleanu, D. & Nedelea, I. (2019). Biological therapies for atopic dermatitis, an update. Exp Ther Med, 17(2), 1061-1067. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6327672/
  14. Stöppler, M.C. “Biological Therapy”, Balentine, J.R. (editor). MedicineNet, https://www.medicinenet.com/biological_therapy/article.htm#what_is_biological_therapy (Accessed May 18, 2020).
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  17. Jones, K. (2018, updated Oct 2020). “Everything you need to know about eczema and food allergies”, National Eczema Association, https://nationaleczema.org/eczema-food-allergies/ (Accessed October 28, 2020).
  18. Dhar, S. & Srinivas, S.M. (2016). Food Allergy in Atopic Dermatitis. Indian J Dermatol, 61(6), 645-648. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5122280/
  19. Katta, R. & Schlichte, M. (2014). Diet and Dermatitis. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol, 7(3), 30-36. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3970830/
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Health information contained herein is provided for general educational purposes only. Your healthcare professional is the single best source of information regarding your health. Please consult your healthcare professional if you have any questions about your health or treatment.