Eczema (also known as atopic dermatitis, or atopic eczema) is a chronic skin condition in which the skin becomes itchy, red, cracked and dry, and may then ooze and open. It affects both males and females equally, as well as people from different ethnic backgrounds. It mainly affects children, but it can continue into adulthood or start later in life.
The word "eczema" comes from the Greek word ekzein meaning "to boil out or boil over"; the Greek word ek means "out", while the Greek word zema means "boiling".
The incidence of eczema seems to be rising in recent years, but it is not totally clear what is driving this. Genetics certainly play a role, but environmental factors also seem to be involved. Some suggest that there are toxins or pollutants in the environment that contribute to this, while others point out that we are more "clean" than ever before in human history, the so-called "hygiene hypothesis". The thinking is that because we are living in such a bacteria-free environment (e.g., constantly washing hands and using hand-sanitizer, staying indoors much of the time, etc.), the immune system is not developing correctly and autoimmune and allergic diseases are increasingly common. We still do not have a satifying answer and it may be multiple factors working together or things we have not thought of yet.
There are a number of approaches to treating eczema, but there is no reliable cure--that's why we are here. While many children grow out of eczema over time, there are some who do not and some adults who develop the eczema later in life and continue to suffer.
Please see our three-part video series for more detailed information here.
Poor sleep for patient and family
Missed school and/or work
Lower quality of life