Purpose of review: Both atopy and diseases from the spectrum of dermatitis and eczema are among the most frequent clinical problems worldwide; nevertheless, they are still poorly defined and too frequently misdiagnosed. In the present review, studies pertinent to this topic were systematized and critically assessed with particular attention to definitions of relevant diseases.
Recent findings: The overall message from the research done to date is that various types of dermatitis frequently coexist. Atopy and contact allergy seem independent, while there is insufficient data to state upon the relationship between atopy and allergic contact dermatitis. Furthermore, it seems at present that atopy does not, whereas atopic eczema does constitute a risk factor for irritant contact dermatitis.
Summary: The interplay between atopy and diseases from the spectrum of dermatitis and eczema is not fully understood; nevertheless, their coexistence and overlapping are not rare. Therefore, every patient with eczema – regardless of age, sex or atopic status – should undergo an extensive diagnostic programme including each atopic eczema, irritant contact dermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis, and protein contact dermatitis. Better definitions and well designed studies are necessary to achieve detailed information on the complex relationships between each atopy, atopic eczema, and the three contact dermatitides.