What is Eczema?

Eczema is a long-term inflammation or irritation of the skin with sudden and often intense flare-ups. Eczema appears as patches of dry, red, inflamed, and extremely itchy skin. During an eczema flare up, affected areas of the skin become very dry, reddened, and irritated. Repeated scratching can cause the skin to thicken and can also break the skin and introduce bacteria, causing an infection. When this happens, the skin will look wet, and a crust may form over the surface. Repeated outbreaks can lead to a type of eczema that is characterized by raw, thick, and scaly skin.

Eczema is a general term that covers many types of skin inflammation. Atopic dermatitis (AD), for example, is a long-lasting type of eczema that is considered hereditary.

Other types of eczema – such as contact dermatitis – are not long-lasting. These types, usually triggered by an external irritant, often go away once the irritant is removed.

Eczema is similar to other conditions like asthma and seasonal allergies in that it involves response by the body to the environment. Eczema often flares up as a result of triggers such as sweat, heat, or exposure to irritating chemicals.

Eczema is a fairly common skin disorder which affects approximately 7% of all children and typically appears in the first year of life, gradually subsiding as children grow older. The face, neck, knees, elbows, and wrists are the most common sites of eczema outbreaks in children. In very young children, eczema tends to appear on the face, elbows, knees, and wrists because these are the places that rub against bedding. Scratching and rubbing often lead to eczema flare-ups. In adults and older children, eczema will tend to appear in areas where moisture collects—on the insides of elbows, the backs of knees, or the neck.

If the eczema persists beyond a child’s second birthday, he or she is more likely to have lifelong skin allergies. A high percentage of children with eczema will have some form of skin irritation throughout their lives.

For more information about eczema, please visit: http://www.nationaleczema.org.


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