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Eczema describes an itchy, inflamed skin rash. The term eczema comes from a Greek word meaning 'to boil over'. This condition may also be called dermatitis.
Eczema is a chronic, itchy rash that affects the skin. Eczema causes the skin to become sore, dry, red and thicker in some places. There are many different types of eczema, the most common being atopic dermatitis. Eczema is occasionally described as "the itch that rashes".
Eczema usually starts in childhood but many people affected by eczema will continue to suffer from occasional flare-ups throughout their lives.
Eczema is a common condition affecting 10-20% of school children and around 5% of adults in the UK.
Eczema may vary in appearance from individual to individual. Typical features include itchy, red skin that may be dry thickened and cracked. Eczema commonly affects the face, neck hands and in creases of the limbs.
Symptoms may flare up and then disappear for a period of time before reappearing. Recognising 'triggers' that cause your eczema to flare up can be an effective measure in managing the symptoms.
Though the tendency to develop eczema generally has a genetic component, certain foods (such as dairy products, eggs and yeast) and skin irritants (pet hair, detergents, wool) can act as triggers, particularly in children.
Eczema is divided into a number of types according to the main cause, even though the symptoms may be similar (see below). Atopic eczema is the most common and is often linked with hay-fever and asthma.
There are a number of very good treatments for both children and adults that can relieve the symptoms of eczema. The right treatment may depend on the cause, and it is often necessary to try several treatments before finding one that is successful.
Although there isn't a cure for eczema, there are a number of things you can do to manage it. The goal of eczema treatment is to heal the skin, keep it in good condition and manage the symptoms when they appear.
Although eczema can look unpleasant, it's important to remember that it is not contagious.
Types of eczema
There are five main types of Eczema:
Many children outgrow eczema around the age of seven, although they may remain susceptible to it when the body is put under stress. They can also pass the tendency onto their children.