Eczema is inflammation of the skin. The most common type is ‘atopic eczema’, which is related to allergies or a sensitivity to certain things. Atopic eczema is usually linked with other allergies-related conditions like asthma and hayfever.
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Eczema is a condition that happens due to inflammation of the skin. It makes your skin red, itchy, dry and cracked. Its symptoms can sometimes appear mild and other times be severe.
With mild eczema, you may only have small patches of dry skin that are occasionally itchy. Severe eczema causes widespread red, sore and inflamed patches of skin all over your body, with constant itching.
Usually people will develop eczema during childhood, some will grow out of this while they are teenagers. There isn’t a cure for eczema, but there are treatments that make the symptoms better, and it can be managed so that it only flares up from time-to-time.
People of all age groups can get eczema. However, most people will be found to have it from childhood, and it is very common in children under 5 years old.
Eczema is more common in children and usually develops before they are 5 years old. Children make up about 80% of eczema cases in the UK population.
Eczema can also develop for the first time in adults, but eczema in adults is found in only about 2% - 18% of cases in the UK population.
There’s no fixed time for an eczema flare up to last for as it can vary, even between flare ups for the same person. It’s also not clear what the average time is for a flare up to last.
When it comes to how long the condition lasts for, eczema is a long term (chronic) condition with no cure. However, it has been known to completely clear up in some children by the time they are adolescents or adults. Studies have shown that about 2 in 3 children will grow out of it by their mid-teen years.
We don’t know the exact cause of eczema. People with eczema tend to have dry skin because the oily layer of their skin has been reduced. Genetic (inherited) factors have been found to play a role in who does and doesn’t have this.
Having this dry skin can make you more likely to react to certain triggers, causing eczema flare ups.
If you have eczema, you could have mild or severe flare ups which could occur on their own or due to common triggers.
During flare ups, the immune system releases chemicals under the skin surface causing inflammation. This is what causes the redness, pain and itchy patches of skin.
Your doctor can help you identify what triggers your symptoms. Some common triggers include:
Mild flare ups of eczema are usually easy to control and don’t have serious consequences. If you constantly have severe flare ups and itching, it can be troublesome and cause complications. Some of these complications include:
Eczema symptoms, and how strong they are, can be different from person to person. Some common ones to look out for are:
If you have any of the symptoms of eczema, make an appointment with your GP. You can expect your GP to diagnose your eczema by asking you questions about your symptoms and looking at the affected skin areas.
There are other skin conditions which might look like eczema. Your GP will help rule them out as a possible cause for your symptoms. These other conditions are:
We offer the following treatment options for eczema:
The use of topical corticosteroids (like hydrocortisone cream) may cause the following side effects:
Side effects from using emollients such as Aveeno emollient lotion or Cetraben Cream are rare but can include:
If you experience any symptoms of an allergic reaction when using any eczema treatment you should get emergency medical help.
Other treatments for eczema include:
Complementary or herbal treatments for eczema have been used by some people with positive results. However, there is little evidence in support of such treatments. You should talk to your GP first if you are considering these options.
To place an order, you need to be over 18 years old (male or female) and have mild to moderate eczema.
If you are under 18 years and/or have severe or infected eczema, book an appointment with your GP for a personalised management plan.
If you have been diagnosed with eczema that has a strong genetic factor (inherited), you are more likely to have flare ups occasionally without any triggers.
Although flare ups will eventually go away on their own, it’s a good idea to keep treating these flare ups to prevent complications from severe itching such as skin infection.
If you have eczema that is caused by common triggers, then your GP would work with you to discover what those triggers are and make a plan to avoid them to prevent future flare ups.
Either way, if you do get flare ups from eczema, you should treat them to avoid further complications and disruptions to your normal life.
Archer, C. B. (2013). Atopic eczema. Medicine; 41(6): 341-344.
Bell D. C. and Brown S. J. (2017). Atopic eczema treatment now and in the future: Targeting the skin barrier and key immune mechanisms in human skin. World J Dermatol; 6(3): 42-51. [online]. Available at: https://www.wjgnet.com/2218-6190/full/v6/i3/42.htm [accessed 12 November 2018].
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Mayo Clinic (2018). Eczema. Mayo Clinic.[online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chlamydia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355349 [accessed 12th November 2018].
National Health Service (2018). Causes of eczema. NHS. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/atopic-eczema/causes/ [accessed 12th November 2018].
National Health Service (2018). Treatment of eczema. NHS. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/atopic-eczema/treatment/ [accessed 12th November 2018].
Patient.info (2018). Eczema. patient.info.[online] Available at: https://patient.info/health/atopic-eczema#nav-3 [accessed 12th November 2018].