Atopic eczema

What is atopic eczema?
A genetically determined skin disease, atopic eczema is a malfunction in the upper layer of the skin that usually first appears during early childhood. Although it often clears up before adulthood, some people live with the condition for life. With proper advice and support, these people can manage the disease and avoid much physical and social discomfort.

Common symptoms include an itchy rash, dry skin, redness and inflammation. Constant scratching can cause the skin to crack, leaving it vulnerable to infection. Some people experience atopic eczema as a succession of flare-ups and remissions; others have it almost constantly.

Causes
Allergic reactions to chemicals, metals and plants can cause the skin to flare up and make atopic eczema worse. Eczema can also be exacerbated if it becomes infected with the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. Apart from allergens and bacterial infections, atopic eczema can be triggered or worsened by stress, or by seasonal climate changes such as the shift from summer to autumn when the air becomes drier.

Treatment
It is important to remember that atopic eczema normally has a good prognosis. As part of the treatment, general measures such as avoiding irritants and excessive heat and using emollients to moisturise the skin are important to minimise the itch.

Topical steroids or combinations with topical antibiotics are often used to treat eczema. In very severe cases, light therapy or systemic treatment may apply. 

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