What is eczema?
Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is one of the most common inflammatory skin conditions that can cause itchy, dry, and/or scaly skin. It is often referred to as ‘the itch that rashes’ because the itchy dry skin results in rashes from intense scratching or rubbing.
Who is at risk?
Eczema is most commonly seen in children, but it can also occur later in life during adulthood. The estimated global prevalence is 15-20% among children and 10% among adults. Although eczema affects both sexes, studies have shown that it is slightly more common among female patients. Those with a family history of eczema are at increased risk for developing eczema.
What causes eczema?
The exact causes of eczema are unknown; however, it is thought to occur due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Most people with eczema have a genetic abnormality in the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin, which interferes with its function as the body’s first line of defense against pathogens and irritants. Exposure to these pathogens or irritants, therefore, results in inflammation and the scaly, itchy, dry skin characteristic of eczema.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms can vary widely between individuals and can change over time. Common symptoms include intense itching, scaly or flaky skin, and small bumps. Eczematous areas often also become discolored and may appear pink or red on those with lighter skin, or purple, brown, or gray on those with darker skin. Scratching from the itchiness can lead to infections, which can cause the formation of painful, pus-filled bumps and eventual scars.
In infants, eczema can be more widespread and involve many areas of the body, including the head, face, arms, and legs. The affected areas usually become more localized with age, and common areas for eczema among older children and adults include the elbows, the back of the neck, and the backs of the knees.
How is eczema diagnosed?
There is no laboratory test or scan that is used to diagnose eczema. Your doctor will make the diagnosis based on your medical history, family history, symptoms, and physical examination. Your doctor may recommend an allergy test to rule out allergy as a cause of your signs and symptoms.
How is eczema treated?
Eczema is a chronic condition that often comes and goes in flares. Although there is no cure for eczema, your physician can work with you to manage sy