Doctor Calling: A weekly column by Dr Miles Langdon of South Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group, addressing topical health issues
NHS South Lincolnshire CCG is raising awareness of eczema during National Eczema Week from September 13 to 21.
Atopic eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is the most common form of eczema. It mainly affects children, but can continue into adulthood.
It is a complex condition and one that affects a growing number of families in the UK. Highly visible, it attracts attention, speculation and comment, which is why it’s so important to have a better understanding of its causes, symptoms and treatment as well as the everyday difficulties that it presents.
The condition causes the skin to become itchy, red, dry and cracked. It is a long-term condition. Atopic eczema commonly occurs in areas with folds of skin, such as:
* Behind the knees
* The inside of the elbows
* On the side of the neck
* Around the eyes and ears
It can vary in severity and most people are only mildly affected. Severe symptoms include cracked, sore and bleeding skin. People with atopic eczema usually have periods when symptoms are less noticeable, as well as flare-ups when symptoms become more severe, needing additional treatment.
The exact cause of eczema is unknown. However, it often occurs in people who get allergies and can occur alongside other conditions such as asthma and hay fever. Many different types of treatment can be used to control symptoms and manage eczema, including medication and self-help techniques”.
Atopic eczema clears up or significantly improves in many children as they get older. In over 50 per cent of cases, atopic eczema clears up by the time a child reaches 11 years of age, and in over 60 per cent of cases it clears up by 16 years of age. However, severe eczema often has a significant impact on daily life and may be difficult to cope with physically and mentally. There is also an increased risk of infections.
The main treatments are:
* Emollients (moisturising treatments) – used all the time for dry skin.
* Topical corticosteroids – used to reduce swelling and redness during flare-ups
About one in five children in the UK has eczema. In eight out of 10 cases, atopic eczema occurs before a child reaches five years of age. Many children develop it before their first birthday.
The number of people diagnosed with atopic eczema has increased in recent years. This could be because of changes in lifestyle or environmental factors that cause eczema, or because healthcare professionals are now more aware of the symptoms.
Males and females are affected equally.