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Eczema, also called dermatitis, is a very common skin condition. Dermatitis is a general term that describes inflammation of the skin. Eczema is an extremely unpleasant condition, which usually involves an itchy rash on a reddened, swollen sin. It can affect all parts of the body, depending on the type of dermatitis. There are several treatments which can help to ease eczema complaints.

Medically reviewed by Prof. Dr. O. Patho on December 17, 2018


  • Information

    What is eczema?

    Eczema is a skin condition which can cause the skin to blister, ooze, crust or flake off. Eczema can be subdivided into several types; including atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis and seborrheic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis is the most common form of dermatitis.

    Research has shown that atopic dermatitis affects 15-20% of children and 1-3% of adults, and continues to increase in prevalence, specifically in young children. Each type of dermatitis tends to look differently and to occur on different parts of the body. The cause of dermatitis is presumed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

    What are the symptoms of eczema?

    Eczema can be recognised by various symptoms:

    • Atopic dermatitis.

    This red, itchy rash usually occurs where the skin flexes – inside the knees, elbows and around the neck. The rash can leak fluids and crust over after scratching. People with atopic dermatitis experience periods of improvement and flare-ups.

    • Contact dermatitis

    This red, burning and itchy rash occurs on body parts that have come into contact with substances that cause an allergic reaction to the skin. Hereby, blisters can develop. Examples of substances that can trigger this type of dermatitis are oils or soap.

    • Seborrheic dermatitis

    This type of dermatitis causes red skin, squamous patches and dandruff. It is mostly found on oily parts of the body, such as the face, scalp, chest and back. Seborrheic dermatitis is a long-term disorder which shows periods of improvement and flare-ups.

    What are causes of eczema?

    There are a number of factors and health conditions that can cause various types of dermatitis. Depending on the type of dermatitis, causes and risk factors for developing dermatitis vary.

    • Atopic dermatitis.

    This type of dermatitis is caused by a combination of factors. These include genetics, abnormal function of the immune system, environment and defects in de skin barrier that allow germs in. For example, changes in temperature can be extremely annoying for people with atopic eczema. In addition, research has shown that eczema and diet are also linked. Thereby, people who have a family history of hay fever, allergies or asthma are more likely to develop atopic eczema as well.

    • Contact dermatitis

    Direct contact of the skin to allergens, such as soap or preservatives, causes this condition to develop. Certain occupations come with an enlarged risk of developing contact dermatitis. Being a healthcare worker for example, is linked to contact dermatitis on the hands.

    • Seborrheic dermatitis

    The exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis is unknown. However, microorganisms such as yeasts contribute to seborrheic dermatitis. Unlike contact dermatitis, this type of eczema is not the result of an allergy. People with diseases that affect the immune system, such as Parkinson’s disease or HIV, are believed to be at an increased risk of developing seborrheic dermatitis.

    How is eczema diagnosed?

    Each type of dermatitis is diagnosed based on a combination of several factors. These include: localization, triggers and specific characteristics (redness, patches, etc.) Based on this information a clear diagnosis can be made, and this diagnosis then determines what treatment is required.

  • Treatments

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