Eczema

The main symptom of atopic eczema is patches of skin that are itchy, dry, cracked and sore.

You're more likely to get atopic eczema if you have allergies or other family members with conditions like atopic eczema, asthma or hay fever.

Treatments for atopic eczema include emollients (moisturising treatments) and steroid creams.

Atopic eczema causes the skin to become itchy, dry, cracked and sore.

Some people only have small patches of dry skin, but others may experience widespread inflamed skin all over the body.

Inflamed skin can become red on lighter skin, and darker brown, purple or grey on darker skin. This can also be more difficult to see on darker skin.

Although atopic eczema can affect any part of the body, it most often affects the hands, insides of the elbows, backs of the knees and the face and scalp in children.

People with atopic eczema usually have periods when symptoms are less noticeable, as well as periods when symptoms become more severe (flare-ups).

The exact cause of atopic eczema is unknown, but it's clear it is not down to one single thing.

Atopic eczema often occurs in people who get allergies. "Atopic" means sensitivity to allergens.

It can run in families, and often develops alongside other conditions, such as asthma and hay fever.

The symptoms of atopic eczema often have certain triggers, such as soaps, detergents, stress and the weather. 

Sometimes food allergies can play a part, especially in young children with severe eczema.

You may be asked to keep a food diary to try to determine whether a specific food makes your symptoms worse.

Allergy tests are not usually needed, although they're sometimes helpful in identifying whether a food allergy may be triggering symptoms.

Treatment for atopic eczema can help to relieve the symptoms and many cases improve over time.

But there's currently no cure and severe eczema often has a significant impact on daily life, which may be difficult to cope with physically and mentally.

There's also an increased risk of skin infections. 

Many different treatments can be used to control symptoms and manage eczema, including:

  • self-care techniques, such as reducing scratching and avoiding triggers
  • emollients (moisturising treatments) – used on a daily basis for dry skin
  • topical corticosteroids – used to reduce swelling, redness and itching during flare-ups

Page last reviewed: 05-12-2019
Next review due:05-12-2022

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