Eczema affects people of all ages but is primarily seen in children. Those who “grow out” of their eczema during early childhood may see it recur again in later life.
“Atopic” refers to a collection of diseases involving the immune system, including atopic dermatitis, asthma, and hay fever. Dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin.
Eczema can also be triggered by environmental factors like smoke and pollen. However, eczema is not a curable situation.
Treatment focuses on healing damaged skin and alleviating symptoms. There is not yet a full cure for eczema, but symptoms can be managed. Eczema is not a contagious condition.
The symptoms of atopic dermatitis can vary, depending on the age of the person with the condition.
Atopic dermatitis commonly happens in infants, with dry and scaly patches appearing on the skin. These patches are often intensely itchy.
Most people develop atopic dermatitis before the age of 5 years. Half of those who develop the situation in childhood continue to have symptoms as an adult.
However, these symptoms are often different to those experienced by children.
People with the situation will often experience periods of time where their symptoms flare up or worsen, followed by periods of time where their symptoms will improve or clear up.
There is no cure for eczema. Treatment for the situation aims to heal the affected skin and prevent flare-ups of symptoms. Doctors will suggest a plan of treatment based on an individual’s age, symptoms, and current state of health.
For some people, eczema goes away over time. For others, it remains a lifelong condition.
There are many different types of eczema. While this article has focused mainly on atopic dermatitis, other types include:
Nummular eczema: this show as circular patches of irritated skin that can be crusted, scaly, and itchy.
Allergic contact dermatitis: This is a skin reaction following contact with a substance or allergen that the immune system recognizes as foreign.
Dyshidrotic eczema: This is an irritation of the skin on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. It is characterized by blisters.
Neurodermatitis: This forms scaly patches of skin on the head, forearms, wrists, and lower legs. It is caused by a localized itch, such as an insect bite.