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Eczema is a condition where patches of skin become inflamed, itchy, red, cracked, and rough. Blisters may sometimes occur.
Different stages and types of eczema affect 31.6 percent of people in the United States.
The word eczema is also used specifically to talk about atopic dermatitis, the most common type of eczema.
Atopic refers to a collection of diseases involving the immune system, including atopic dermatitis, asthma, and hay fever. Dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin.
Some people outgrow the condition, while others will continue to have it throughout adulthood.
This MNT Knowledge Center article will explain what eczema is and discuss the symptoms, causes, treatments, and types.
The symptoms of atopic dermatitis can vary, depending on the age of the person with the condition.
Atopic dermatitis commonly occurs in infants, with dry and scaly patches appearing on the skin. These patches are often intensely itchy.
Most people develop atopic dermatitis before the age of 5 years. Half of those who develop the condition in childhood continue to have symptoms as an adult.
However, these symptoms are often different to those experienced by children.
People with the condition will often experience periods of time where their symptoms flare up or worsen, followed by periods of time where their symptoms will improve or clear up.
Over time, the following symptoms can occur:
Adults who developed atopic dermatitis as a child but no longer experience the condition may still have dry or easily-irritated skin, hand eczema, and eye problems.
The appearance of skin affected by atopic dermatitis will depend on how much a person scratches and whether the skin is infected. Scratching and rubbing further irritate the skin, increase inflammation, and make itchiness worse.
There is no cure for eczema. Treatment for the condition aims to heal the affected skin and prevent flare-ups of symptoms. Doctors will suggest a plan of treatment based on an individuals age, symptoms, and current state of health.
For some people, eczema goes away over time. For others, it remains a lifelong condition.
There are numerous things that people with eczema can do to support skin health and alleviate symptoms, such as:
There are several medications that doctors can prescribe to treat the symptoms of eczema, including:
Even though the condition itself is not yet curable, there should be a particular treatment plan to suit each person with different symptoms. Even after an area of skin has healed, it is important to keep looking after it, as it may easily become irritated again.
The specific cause of eczema remains unknown, but it is believed to develop due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Eczema is not contagious.
Children are more likely to develop eczema if a parent has had the condition or another atopic disease.
If both parents have an atopic disease, the risk is even greater.
Environmental factors are also known to bring out the symptoms of eczema, such as:
There are many different types of eczema. While this article has focused mainly on atopic dermatitis, other types include:
Eczema: Symptoms, treatment, and causes
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