Atopic eczema (also known as atopic dermatitis) is the most common form of eczema and mainly affects children, but can often continue into adulthood. One in five children in the UK has eczema, and 35% of cases continue past the age of 16 years.
Eczema is a long-term, or chronic, condition that causes the skin to become itchy, red, dry and cracked. In some cases the problem area can become infected, making things worse. Scratching the affected area can damage the skin and increase the chance of infection, so this should be avoided (although resisting the need to scratch can understandably be very difficult).
The severity of the condition can vary from person to person. It can be mild, but severe cases of eczema can be very sore with badly cracked and bleeding skin. The most commonly affected parts of the body are behind the knees, inside the elbows, on the side of the neck and around the eyes and ears. For most people, their eczema will be okay for a while and then flare up to become much worse, requiring additional treatments.
What are the causes of eczema?
The exact causes of atopic eczema are not known, but it does occur more often in people who are prone to allergies, and also those who suffer from other problems such as asthma and hay fever. It has been established that eczema runs in families, so genetics has a part to play in whether or not you’ll be affected by the condition. If you have genes that predispose you to eczema, the condition may then be triggered by allergens in the environment such as dust, house dust mites or pollen. In many cases, some types of food can act as allergens that trigger eczema – milk, eggs, nuts and wheat are common culprits.
However, allergens are not the whole story, as eczema can also be triggered by other factors including cold weather, rough clothing, harsh soaps, washing too much, stress and sweating a lot. In general, it does seem that the prevalence of eczema is on the increase. This may be due to changes in the way we live or the environment we live in, but the relative importance of each factor is not clear.
How is eczema treated?
Eczema cannot be cured, but many people simply grow out of it. However, when you are suffering from eczema, it can be both physically and emotionally uncomfortable, so it’s good that there are effective treatments to help control the symptoms. The Pharmacy2U Online Doctor service can provide a wide range of prescription-strength treatments if appropriate. The treatments on offer are discussed below:
Emolients. These are moisturising treatments that soothe the skin to reduce dryness, cracking and itching. Emollients are frequently used to control the symptoms, and tend to come as creams, ointments, lotions or bath additives. The best form for you will depend on your skin and the severity of eczema symptoms, but in general, ointments are the best for very dry skin (although they’re the most greasy to use). Emollients are also useful as a substitute for soap, which can be very drying to the skin.
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