According to the Eczema Association of Australasia, Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is a recurring, non-infectious, inflammatory skin condition affecting one in three Australasia's at some stage throughout their lives. The condition is most common in people with a family history of an atopic disorder, including asthma or hay fever.
Atopic eczema is the most common form of the disease among Australasians. The skin becomes red, dry, itchy and scaly, and in severe cases, may weep, bleed and crust over, causing the sufferer much discomfort. Sometimes the skin may become infected. The condition can also flare and subside for no apparent reason.
Although eczema affects all ages, it usually appears in early childhood (in babies between two-to-six months of age) and disappears around six years of age. In fact, more than half of all eczema sufferers show signs within their first 12 months of life and 20 per cent of people develop eczema before the age of five.
Most children grow out of the condition, but a small percentage may experience severe eczema into adulthood. The condition can not only affect the individual sufferer, but also their family and friends. Adult onset eczema is often very difficult to treat and may be caused by other factors such as medications.
The exact cause of eczema is unknown – it appears to be linked to the following internal and external triggers:
What are the symptoms of eczema?
How does eczema affect people?
Although eczema is itself is not a life-threatening disease, it can certainly have a debilitating effect on a sufferer, their carers and their family's quality of life. Night-time itching can cause sleepless nights and place a significant strain upon relationships. Eczema 'flare-ups' can often lead to absenteeism from work, school, personal activities & responsibilities. For some severe sufferers it can also mean hospitalizations & costly treatments.
Is there a cure for eczema?
Although there is no known cure for eczema and it can be a lifelong condition, treatment can offer symptom control.
How do you diagnose eczema?
Only a doctor or skin specialist, usually a Dermatologist, can formally diagnose eczema
An accurate diagnosis requires a complete skin examination, a thorough medical history and the presence of a chronically recurring rash with intense itching that is consistent with eczema. Itching is an important clue to diagnosing eczema. If an itch is not present, chances are that the problem is not eczema.
While there is no test to determine whether a person has eczema, tests may be conducted to rule out other possibilities.
What are the treatment options for eczema?
The goal of treating eczema is to heal the skin and to both prevent and minimize flare-ups. This can be done by using a moisturizer to prevent the skin from cracking or itching and to offer relief. Well moisturized skin also helps block out germs that cause infections.
It is important to seek professional medical advice before using any medication: whether over the counter or prescription to determine its side-effects.
What are the complications associated with eczema?
As eczema skin is often broken, it places the sufferer at risk of contracting skin infections. Professional medical advice should be sought at the first sign of any infection. An eczema sufferer is also at risk of developing herpes simplex type 1 (cold sores) which can spread over a large area of the skin and occasionally prove dangerous.
Sufferers are also at risk of contracting a widespread skin infection known as impetigo (school sores). In order to avoid any complications associated with vaccination, the disease should be discussed with a medical professional. However, normal childhood immunizations generally pose no risk to the eczema sufferer