What Is Eczema?

Eczema is generally recognized as inflamed, reddened, rash-like, and itchy skin, and is non-contagious.

Atopic dermatitis, also known as atopic eczema or eczema, is a condition dealing with hypersensitivity of the skin or mucous membranes. Itching is the primary sensation associated with eczema, and one of the biggest detractors in general with regards to quality of life. Eczema sufferers are typically at higher risk for asthma, rhinoconjunctivitis and other disorders all closely associated to allergic responses. Eczema can be enormously detracting from the quality of life sufferers experience. Socially exposed eczema can effect work, personal, and romantic relationships. Itching during nighttime hours, especially for eczema located on the head and scalp, can prevent restful sleep, affecting a sufferer’s health and mood. Today, the toll that eczema can take on a person’s Quality of Life (QoL) is beginning to be more broadly appreciated through the actions of third party awareness organizations and cutting-edge research.

Atopy, (or being atopic), is the tendency to be hypersensitive to certain substances or allergens. Atopic eczema is typically associated (though not necessarily) with higher levels of immunoglobulin E (IgE) in the blood at lesion sites, which indicates an allergic reaction. Triggers for eczematous regions can include external contact with certain chemicals, fabrics and cosmetics, or internally via infection, foods, and medications.

Atopic eczema affects as many as 10 to 20 percent of the world’s population, including more than 15 million people in the United States. It often appears for the first time at a very young age (infancy), generally before age 5 and often before age one.  For those patients that exhibit eczema symptoms in infancy, a large portion notice cyclical patterns in the disease, disappearing and reappearing over several years, and in some, will disappear entirely before the sufferer’s teens. In others, the cycle is chronic and unpredictable.

The most common symptoms of atopic dermatitis are:

  • Dry and itchy skin
  • Rashes on the face, inside the elbows, behind the knees, and on the hands and feet

Scratching or irritating the eczema skin can cause:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Cracking
  • “Weeping” or “oozing” clear fluid
  • Crusting
  • Thick skin
  • Scaling

The psychological impact of this disease is significant with a significant population of eczema sufferers reporting that it affects their daily activities and Quality of Life (QoL).

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