Signs and symptoms of atopic dermatitis may include:

  • Itching (most common symptom)
  • Dry skin
  • Rash, usually consisting of red or scaly areas of skin
  • Areas commonly affected by atopic dermatitis are:
    • Infants: face, scalp, neck, extensor surfaces (elbows and knees), trunk
    • Children: front of elbows, behind knees
    • Adults: front of elbows, behind knees, face, neck, upper chest
  • Rash may develop oozing or crusting, especially in infants
  • Thickening and leathery quality of skin with chronic atopic dermatitis (known as lichen simplex chronicus)
  • Paleness around the mouth
  • Extra fold of skin beneath lower eyelid (Dennies or Morgans line)
  • Increased number of skin creases on the palms

Increased Incidence of Skin Infections

Signs of possible skin infection that may require prompt medical attention include:

  • Redness and swelling
  • Yellowish crusting
  • Drainage of pus

Emotional Effects of Atopic Dermatitis

The severity of atopic dermatitis and the frequency and duration of outbreaks will vary among people. In severe cases, quality of life may be compromised. In addition to physical discomfort, people with atopic dermatitis may develop emotional problems, such as depression or anxiety. People with atopic dermatitis may experience social difficulties due to visible skin rashes.

Atopic dermatitis and its treatment may be particularly difficult for children, especially when skin involvement is quite severe.


Atopic dermatitis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated July 3, 2017. Accessed December 21, 2017.

Eczema. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: Updated June 2015 . Accessed December 21, 2017.

Eczema. National Eczema Association website. Available at: Accessed December 21, 2017.

Eczema and atopic dermatitis. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: Updated June 2017. Accessed December 20, 2017.

Understanding your child’s eczema. National Eczema Association website. Available at: Accessed December 21, 2017.

Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods MD, FAAP  Last Updated: 12/20/2014