Facts About Eczema
What is eczema?
Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is a recurring, non-infectious, inflammatory skin condition affecting one in three New Zealand at some stage throughout their lives. The condition is most common in people with a family history of an atopic disorder, including asthma or hay fever.
Atopic eczema is the most common form of the disease among New Zealand. The skin becomes red, dry, itchy and scaly, and in severe cases, may weep, bleed and crust over, causing the sufferer much discomfort. Sometimes the skin may become infected. The condition can also flare and subside for no apparent reason.
Although eczema affects all ages, it usually appears in early childhood (in babies between two-to-six months of age) and disappears around six years of age. In fact, more than half of all eczema sufferers show signs within their first 12 months of life and 20 per cent of people develop eczema before the age of five.
Most children grow out of the condition, but a small percentage may experience severe eczema into adulthood. The condition can not only affect the individual sufferer, but also their family and friends. Adult onset eczema is often very difficult to treat and may be caused by other factors such as medications.
What causes eczema?
The exact cause of eczema is unknown – it appears to be linked to the following internal and external triggers:
- A family history of eczema, asthma or hay fever (the strongest predictor): if both parents have eczema, there is an 80 per cent chance that their children may also develop eczema
- Some foods and alcohol: dairy and wheat products, citrus fruits, eggs, nuts, seafood, chemical food additives, preservatives and colourings