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Definition

Eczema is an inflammation of the skin which may cause dryness, flakiness, heat, and probably most importantly, itching. Eczema is a very common condition, and it affects all races and ages, including young infants. Eczema can occur on just about any part of the body. In infants, eczema typically occurs on the forehead, cheeks, forearms, legs, scalp, and neck. In children and adults, eczema typically occurs on the face, neck, and the insides of the elbows, knees, and ankles. Kids who get eczema often have family members with hay fever, asthma, or other allergies. Some scientists think these children may be genetically predisposed to get eczema, which means characteristics have been passed on from parents through genes that make a child more likely to get it.

More than 15 million people in the United States suffer from this condition, which knows no age barrier. In fact 10% of all infants can have eczema and over half of those who get it as kids will have it all their lives.

Causes

The underlying cause of atopic eczema is not known but there appears to be increased reactivity of the immune system, and affected children often have other allergic conditions. Many substances have been identified as itch triggers in patients with eczema, and triggers are not the same for every person. Many times it is difficult to identify the exact trigger that causes a flare-up.

Eczema can be caused by:

  • Due to contact with substances that chemically aggravate the skin like detergents, soaps, engine oils, strong chemicals, etc.
  • Due to stress, dry weather or, hot or cold temperatures.
  • Due to environmental allergens

Symptoms

Affected areas usually appear very dry, thickened or scaly. In fair-skinned people, these areas may initially appear reddish and then turn brown. Among darker-skinned people, eczema can affect pigmentation, making the affected area lighter or darker. Whatever the cause of your eczema, the skin becomes more sensitive, and you may well notice that you are more easily upset by cosmetics, soaps, detergents, etc. Some people who have eczema scratch their skin so much it becomes almost leathery in texture. Others find that their skin becomes extremely dry and scaly. Even though many people have eczema, the symptoms can vary quite a bit from person to person.

Treatment

Apply a nonprescription steroid cream name as hydrocortisone along with anti-itching lotion. The cream must be applied as often as possible without skipping days until the rash is gone.

There are also a number of topical and oral eczema treatments available that will help your eczema, including new classes of drugs and medical procedures like light therapy. If you have adult eczema, or your child has baby eczema or infant eczema, we encourage you to read this site and discuss your options with your physician.

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