Atopic eczema, also referred to as atopic dermatitis, is the most common form of eczema. It mainly affects children, but can equally affect adults.
Eczema is a condition that creates the skin to become itchy, red, dry and cracked. It is a long-term (chronic) condition in most people, although it can improve over time, especially in children.
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Atopic eczema can attack any part of the body, but the most common areas to be affected are:
- backs or fronts of the knees
- outside or inside of the elbows
- around the neck
People with atopic eczema often have periods when symptoms are less noticeable, as well as periods when symptoms gets more severe (flare-ups).
What are the causes atopic eczema?
The exact cause of atopic eczema is yet unknown, but it’s clear it’s not down to one single thing. It often happens in people who get allergies.”atopic” means sensitivity to allergens.
It could run in families, and often develops alongside other conditions, such as asthma and hay fever.
The symptoms of atopic eczema often have some triggers, such as soaps, detergents, stress and the weather. Often times food allergies can play a part, especially in young children with severe eczema.
How to treat atopic eczema
There is presently no cure for atopic eczema, but treatment can help relieve the symptoms and many cases improve over time.
However, severe eczema often has a great impact on daily life and may be difficult to cope with physically and mentally. There is 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 lowering scratching and avoiding triggers
- emollients (moisturising treatments) – used on a daily basis for dry skin
- topical corticosteriods – used to lower swelling, redness and itching during flare-ups
Who is affected?
About 1 in 5 children in the UK alone has atopic eczema. In 8 out of 10 cases, the condition develops before a child reaches the age of 5. Many children have it before their first birthday.
Atopic eczema can improve greatly, or even clear completely, in some children as they get older. About half of all cases improve a lot by the time a child reaches 11 years, and around two-thirds improve by the age of 16.
However, the condition can continue into adulthood and can sometimes start for the first time in adults.