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Eczema is an itchy inflammation of the skin, associated to a varying degree with other features such as:

  • redness of affected areas of skin
  • generally dry skin, which is often thickened in the areas that have been scratched
  • lumps or blisters in affected areas
  • weeping or crusty deposits.

 The word ‘eczema’ comes from Greek words that mean ‘to boil over’.

Eczema is divided into a small number of subgroups based largely on the factors that may be most important in causing eczema in any one individual, but the symptoms and appearance of the skin in all these types can be exactly the same.

The classification system of eczema is far from perfect as it is often difficult or impossible to accurately say what causes eczema to occur in any one person.

Main groups: 

  • Atopic: the ‘allergic’ type often seen in people who also have hay fever or asthma.
  • Allergic contact: due to skin contact to a substance to which the individual is sensitive. The same substance does not cause eczema in a person who is not sensitive to it.
  • Irritant contact: due to skin contact with irritating chemicals, powders, cleaning agents, etc. Contact with such a substance is likely to cause eczema in any person, although a degree of individual variation still exists.
  • Discoid: appears as discrete islands of eczema on a background of normal skin.
  • Seborrhoeic: in infants appears in the nappy area and the scalp. In adults, also appears on the scalp and in the skin creases between the nose and sides of the mouth. It can be caused by an increased sensitivity to yeast living on the skin.
  • Others: a miscellaneous group including eczema of the legs.


Eczema is notoriously difficult to treat, however, creams, lotions, ointments, bath oils and gels can help to reduce water loss from the skin, making it less dry and itchy. 

Stress can make symptoms worse and, although there is no scientific evidence that alternative medicines or relaxation exercises can ease eczema, many sufferers do find treatments such as acupuncture or aromatherapy useful in managing the condition.

For more information visit: http://www.eczema.org/



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