Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is a recurring, non-infectious, inflammatory skin condition affecting one in three Australians at some stage throughout their lives.
The condition is most common in people with a family history of an atopic disorder, including asthma or hay fever.
This is the most common form of the disease. The skin becomes red, dry, itchy and scaly. In severe cases, it may weep, bleed and crust over, causing the sufferer discomfort.
Although eczema affects all ages, it usually appears in early childhood (in babies between two-to-six months of age) and disappears around six years of age. In fact, more than half of all eczema sufferers show signs within their first 12 months of life and 20 per cent of people develop eczema before the age of five.
Most children grow out of the condition, but a small percentage may experience severe eczema into adulthood.
What causes eczema?
Eczema is caused by a person’s inability to repair damage to the skin barrier. Once the skin barrier is disrupted, moisture leaves the skin and the skin will become dry and scaly.
Environmental allergens (irritants from the person’s surrounds) can enter the skin and activate the immune system, producing inflammation that makes the skin red and itchy.
You are more likely to get eczema if your family has a history of eczema or allergic conditions, including hay fever and asthma.
In most cases, eczema is not caused or aggravated by diet. If you feel that food is to blame, see your doctor or a dietitian for proper allergy testing and dietary advice.
While eczema causes stress, and stress may increase the energy with which you scratch, stress does not in itself cause eczema.
What are the symptoms of eczema?
- Moderate to severely itching skin
- Rash – dry, red, patchy or cracked skin. Commonly it appears on the face, hands, neck, inner elbows, backs of the knees and ankles, but can appear on any part of the body
- Skin weeping watery fluid
- Rough, ‘leathery’, thick skin.
How does eczema affect people?
Although eczema is itself is not a life-threatening disease, it can certainly have a debilitating effect on a sufferer, their carers and their family’s quality of life. Night-time itching can cause sleepless nights and place a significant strain on relationships. Eczema ‘flare-ups’ can often lead to absenteeism from work and school.
Is there a cure for eczema?
Although there is no known cure for eczema and it can be a lifelong condition, treatment can offer symptom control.
Have a chat with your PVH Medical doctor about the treatment available. In some cases you may be referred to a dermatologist (skin specialist).
If you have any questions about eczema, please come and see us. To make a booking online, tap on ‘Book an Appointment’ at the top of the screen or download the Appointuit app on your phone.