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|This content is for information purposes only and is not provided with the intention of diagnosing a condition or illness. You should speak to a medical professional for diagnosis.|
Atopic dermatitis (commonly known as eczema) is a recurring, non-infectious, inflammatory skin condition affecting one in three Australasians at some point in their lives1. People with eczema find it hard to keep the moisture in their skin, so it becomes dry and easily irritated2.
No one knows exactly what causes eczema, but it can run in families2. Many people who suffer from eczema also have other allergic conditions such as hay fever and asthma.
Eczema can vary in severity and symptoms may flare up and subside from day to day. There is usually no single trigger for an eczema flare3.
Eczema is caused by a person’s inability to repair damage to the skin barrier due to a mutation in the gene called filaggrin4. Normally, every cell in the skin has two copies of the filaggrin gene; people who are susceptible to eczema only have one copy of this gene.
If a person’s skin is exposed to irritants and their skin barrier is affected, a person with only one copy of the filaggrin gene may have difficulty repairing their skin barrier.
Once the skin barrier is broken, moisture leaves the skin and the skin will become dry and scaly. Environmental allergens can also enter the skin and activate your immune system, producing inflammation that makes the skin red and itchy4.
Although eczema affects people of all ages, it usually appears in babies between two and six months of age and generally disappears at around six years of age1.
People with eczema have areas of red, dry, itchy skin, most often in the creases of their elbows, wrists, neck, and behind the knees. They might experience watery fluid weeping from the affected skin, and lesions (sores) that may become infected by bacteria or viruses2.
One in three Australasians will be affected by eczema during their lives1. The condition is most common in people with a family history of eczema or allergies4.
Triggers vary from person to person, however, the following things are generally regarded to make eczema symptoms worse2:
Eczema can be diagnosed by a doctor or skin specialist (usually a dermatologist). Itching is an important clue to diagnosing eczema – if an itch is not present, it’s unlikely that the problem is eczema1.
Treatment options for eczema include4:
No. There is no known cure for eczema; it can be a lifelong condition. In most cases, eczema tends to improve with age5.
No, eczema is not contagious4.
Both children and adults can follow these steps to manage and minimise the severity of their eczema6:
As skin affected by eczema is often broken, the sufferer can be at risk of contracting bacterial and viral infections including1:
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