It’s a common, recurring, non infectious, inflammatory skin condition in which the skin becomes red, dry, itchy or scaly. The skin may weep, bleed or crust over. Superimposed infection is not unusual.
The word eczema comes from a Greek word that means to effervesce or bubble or boil over. Eczema is the most common inflammatory disease of the skin and affects many millions of adults and children worldwide.
It can’t be cured, but it can be managed.
What is the incidence for Eczema?
It is estimated that possibly one in five children under the age of 6 and one in twelve adults have eczema. Eczema affects people of all ages but is primarily seen in children. Those who “grow out” of their eczema during early childhood may see it recur again in later life.
Does Eczema have other names?
Other names for eczema include atopic dermatitis and atopic eczema. Eczema and dermatitis mean the same thing.
The term ‘atopic’ pertains to a hereditary tendency to experience immediate allergic reactions such as eczema, asthma or allergic rhinitis because of the presence of an antibody in the skin and sometimes the bloodstream.
What are the causes of Eczema?
It is now widely accepted that hereditary factors play a role in the onset of childhood atopic eczema. There is often a family history of “atopic” conditions such as asthma, eczema and hay fever. If both parents have eczema, there is an 80% chance that their children will too. In addition, there is a tendency for these conditions to run true to type within each family; in other words, in some families most of the affected members will have eczema, and, in others, asthma or hay fever.
How can it be managed?
There is no cure. However it can be managed during an acute flare up as follows:
- Antihistamines given to control the itch, particularly at night.
- Mild steroid containing creams applied to rash. These can be very effective but you need to be careful with them. Over use of steroid creams or ointment can cause thinning and scaring of the skin.
- Treat any superimposed infections with appropriate antibiotics.
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