Eczema is a word which is used in reference to different types of inflammation of the skin. Another word which is often used to describe this condition is dermatitis. The most frequent type of this condition is referred to as atopic dermatitis. Although the two terms dermatitis and atopic dermatitis are often interchanged they do not mean the same thing. Dermatitis is the general name given to eczema whereas atopic dermatitis is simply one type of dermatitis which may occur.
Although anyone of any age is subject to afflicted with eczema it is more common in babies than anyone else. Over half of the population often experiences this condition before they reach the age of five years. Many times this condition is seen in very young babies and toddler. When this happens it is usually resolved before the baby reaches the age of three however it can return periodically over the course of that person’s life. A large portion of individuals who develop eczema do so because there is either a family history of it or that person may have other allergy conditions such as asthma or hay fever. Reports indicate that while eczema may affect as much as 20% of children it only affects approximately 2% of adults. This condition is thought to be more prevalent in girls than it is in boys and may strike individuals of any race. Although eczema is not considered a contagious skin condition, it is thought to be passed down from one family member to another in some cases. This is why it is not thought to be an unusual occurrence when more than one family member is affected.
It is not known exactly what causes eczema however skin defects and low functionality of the immune system are thought to be contributing factors to its occurrence. In the specific case of atopic dermatitis it is believe that defective genes causing protein abnormalities may lead to the development of this condition.
Some cases of eczema may be triggered by certain objects or substances that come in direct contact with the skin. Some examples of this may include certain types of clothing, jewelry, sweat, soaps, perfumes and cosmetics. Airborne allergens may also lead to the development of this condition in some cases in addition to heat, high humidity and even stress.
There are a variety of symptoms that may be experienced by an individual affected by eczema. Some of the most common of these symptoms include red, itchy skin with a burning sensation. These symptoms may vary slightly from one individual to another depending on such factors as a person’s chemical make-up as well as the particular type and cause of eczema in that person. Itching is generally the first of these symptoms to become noticeable with the other symptoms following closely behind.
Although any part of the body may be affected by eczema it is often most commonly seen in the areas of the face, neck, ankles, knees and insides of the elbows. In babies the areas affected may include the arms, legs, neck, head, forehead and cheeks.