A Patient's Guide to Eczema
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What is Atopic Eczema?

Eczema is a chronic recurring intensely itchy inflammation of the skin usually starting in early childhood. It is known as atopic eczema as well as atopic dermatitis.

Who Is Affected By Eczema?

Eczema affects probably 10-15% of the population and is becoming more common for reasons that are not well understood. The frequency is variable throughout the world. Eczema is easily recognized by the dermatologist. Three quarters of the time, eczema presents itself in the first six months of life. The condition waxes and wanes over the years with frequent flare-ups. There are no specific tests available to confirm the diagnosis. The majority of cases have an increase in the serum Ig E level which is a sign of increased immunological activity.

What Does The Word Eczema Mean?

In Greek eczema means to” boil over” and this refers to the weeping stage of acute eczema. Eczema, hay fever and asthma are grouped together in a complex known as atopy. The cause of eczema is not entirely understood. Genetic, immunological as well as skin barrier defects are important factors. External factors often influence the condition. The barrier function of the skin is less effective which allows more water loss from the skin. An increase in skin bacterial infections especially by staphylococcus aureus can be seen.

Psychological Impact Of Eczema:

The psychological impact of this disease is significant, especially feelings of embarrassment. Sleep disruption is common (80%) and 60% report the condition affecting their daily activities.

Diagnosis Of Eczema:

Diagnosis of this condition, which has variable appearances, is dependent on a number of factors. The features or appearance in one person may be different from another. Skin in different locations in the same person may also have variable appearances which change according to the severity of eczema in that specific location.

See also Diagnosing Eczema

Images of Eczema:

Click on any of the Eczema images below to enlarge.

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