Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)

Please see our free downloadable Factsheets at bottom of this page for more information about eczema (atopic dermatitis) in adults and children, including possible triggers and how to treat eczema with emollients.

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What is eczema?

Eczema, also known as ‘atopic eczema’ or ‘atopic dermatitis’ (used interchangeably to describe the same condition), is a common chronic inflammatory skin condition. Eczema affects people of all ages but is most commonly first seen in infants and young children.

There are many different types of eczema, and atopic eczema is one of the most common.  ‘Atopic’ means it runs in families and/or affects those who already have other types of allergies. An atopic person is likely to have more than one allergic condition, such as eczema, asthma, hay fever or food allergy.

Eczema symptoms affect the skin and include:

  • Dry skin
  • Itchy skin (intense itch that cannot be relieved)
  • Red and inflamed areas (eczema flares)
  • Skin barrier becomes damaged (broken and cracked skin).

What does atopy/atopic mean?

There are many types of eczema and dermatitis:

  • Atopic Eczema / Atopic Dermatitis
  • Discoid Eczema
  • Contact Dermatitis

Specifically, atopy, or being atopic, means having a genetic tendency for your immune system to make increased levels of IgE antibodies to certain allergens. An atopic individual is likely to have more than one allergic condition during their lifetime, such as eczema, asthma, hay fever or food allergy.

Can food allergies cause eczema?

Children are born with the tendency to have eczema, and many things can make their eczema worse. These are known as eczema ‘triggers’. Eczema in children can have various triggers, of which food can be one, especially in babies. However, foods are not the primary cause of eczema.

Play video

Natalie and Callum's Story

Thanks to sponsorship from Neutral, we were able to produce a case study video with Natalie and Callum to shine the light on what it is like to live with severe atopic eczema. Despite the difficulty he has faced, Callum continues to thrive and has never let his condition get the better of him.

Eczema / Dermatitis treatments

  • Emollients. Emollient lotions and creams are prescribed for treating  atopic eczema and dry skin, and are, in their simplest form, mixtures of oil and water.
  • Topical steroid creams. It is sometimes necessary to apply topical corticosteroids (e.g. hydrocortisone), as these reduce inflammation in the skin caused by eczema.
  • Wet wraps. Sometimes, special pyjama-like garments (known as ‘wet wraps’) that are used for children may also help certain areas of your body that have not responded to the usual topical application of emollients and steroids.
  • Calcineurin inhibitors. Calcineurin inhibitors are an alternative to steroid creams. Like steroid creams, they reduce the skin inflammation and can lessen itching.

There is more detailed information about each treatment on our downloadable eczema Factsheet

I’m constantly physically and mentally exhausted. I have blood and skin in my bed every morning, skin coming off in my clothing, and have to cover myself in emollients etc… My children don’t want to be near me when I’m sticky. – Patient with severe eczema.

How can I manage eczema?

You can find a whole host of useful tips on our eczema Factsheet but here are 3 top tips to follow:

  1. Apply your emollients regularly. The chore of a twice daily skin cream regime can become annoying, especially if your symptoms have improved. But remember that the eczema symptoms have improved because the eczema is under control. Without the cream, it may flare up again. Keep up the routine so that your efforts to keep your skin healthy and hydrated do not go to waste.
  2. You could need to apply your emollients from two to four times a day. It can be useful to have extra emollients available should you need them when you are away from home. For example, keep spares at work or in the car.
  3. It is important to be aware of, and look for, the signs of bacterial infections (weeping and crusting), since the skin of eczema sufferers is more prone to infection due to the cracks and constant scratching.
Play video

Caring for a baby's sensitive skin

Take a journey with Bobby and his parents to learn now best to look after a baby’s sensitive or eczema prone skin.

Did you know...

Getting Under the Skin of Adult Severe Eczema: a survey of patients with severe eczema found that...

  • Over 80%

    Said that the management of the condition impacts their day-to-day activities

  • Nearly 1/4

    Missed more than 6 days of work per year due to their condition, whilst approximately 15% missed 16 or more days

  • Over 70%

    Reported feeling depressed as a result of their condition

Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis) Factsheets

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