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Eczema

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Eczema facts

  • Eczema is a general term for many types of skin inflammation, also known as dermatitis. The term eczema is sometimes used interchangeably with atopic dermatitis, the most common form of eczema.
  • Eczema is believed to result from a genetic defect that results in an abnormality of the skin's barrier function.
  • Eczema is most common in babies and young children. All races can be affected.
  • Triggers of eczema outbreaks can be environmental irritants or allergens; substances like soaps, perfumes, or chemicals; food allergies; lifestyle stress; or changes in temperature or humidity.
  • Treatment can include oral or topical corticosteroids, antihistamines, or immune-suppressing drugs known as calcineurin inhibitors.
  • While eczema is not preventable, self-care measures such as frequent hydration of skin and avoidance of extreme temperatures and known irritants can help manage symptoms and reduce the severity of outbreaks.

What is eczema?

Eczema is a general term for many types of skin inflammation (dermatitis). The most common form of eczema is atopic dermatitis (sometimes the terms eczema and dermatitis are used interchangeably). However, there are many different forms of eczema.

Eczema can affect people of any age, although the condition is most common in infants, and about 85% of those affected have an onset prior to 5 years of age. Eczema will permanently resolve by age 5 in about half of affected babies. In others, the condition tends to recur throughout life. People with eczema often have a family history of the condition or a family history of allergic conditions, such as asthma or hay fever. Atopic dermatitis is believed to belong to a group of related diseases including food allergy, asthma, and allergic rhinitis that tend to develop in sequence, suggesting that atopic dermatitis early in life may lead to or predict later allergic diseases. The nature of the link between these conditions is inadequately understood. Up to 18% of children and 1%-2% of adults are believed to have eczema. Eczema is slightly more common in girls than in boys. It occurs in people of all races.

Eczema is not contagious, but since it is believed to be at least partially inherited, it is not uncommon to find members of the same family affected.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/7/2014


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