Eczema & Dermatitis

What are eczema and dermatitis?

Eczema and dermatitis are often used interchangeably to describe a group of commonly occurring skin conditions. They affect up to 1 in 5 children and 1 in 12 adults. The symptoms vary, but can include making the skin dry, red, hot and itchy. They can affect any part of the body, although they most commonly appear on the hands, insides of elbows and behind the knees. They can also become inflamed, leading to additional redness and irritation during ‘flare-ups’.

There are several different forms of eczema and dermatitis:

Atopic eczema/dermatitis

The most common form is atopic eczema, or atopic dermatitis, which tends to start during childhood. ‘Atopic’ means sensitivity to allergies. It often involves an overreactive immune system and so can be associated with asthma or hayfever. It is usually a long-lasting (or chronic) condition which means the skin’s normal protective barrier is not as effective as it should be. When exposed to certain ‘triggers’, the skin can become dry, itchy, cracked, sore and red.

The underlying cause isn’t completely understood, but genetics appear to be an important contributing factor. The triggers that can make atopic eczema/dermatitis worse include emotional stress and various environmental factors.

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Contact eczema/dermatitis

Seborrhoeic eczema/dermatitis

Seborrhoeic eczema/dermatitis affects about 4% of the population. It is characterised by red, scaly, sometimes itchy skin patches. These are often located on areas of the skin with lots of oil-producing glands – such as the scalp, face or chest – where overgrowth of harmless yeast-like microorganisms can also be a contributing factor. Dandruff is the most well-known, and often mildest, example. Seborrhoeic eczema/dermatitis tends to worsen with tiredness, stress and colder weather. 

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Treating eczema/dermatitis

Although it may not be possible to completely cure eczema and dermatitis, these dry skin conditions can be managed very effectively by regular use of emollients. A comprehensive, consistent skincare routine can help improve your skin and keep your symptoms under control.

Need to know more?

For further expert advice on managing dry skin, you can visit: