How Common Is Eczema? We Explain What It Is and How to Identify It

How Common Is Eczema? We Explain What It Is and How to Identify It

If you believe you are suffering from eczema the first thing to do would be to learn how to identify it while waiting for an appointment with your doc

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If you believe you are suffering from eczema the first thing to do would be to learn how to identify it while waiting for an appointment with your doctor. Even if you’ve been given a diagnosis, our doctors are so short staffed and busy that they really don’t have time to do anything other than diagnose and prescribe treatments. In the event that you haven’t been seen yet, you may want to know if it could possibly be eczema. In either case, let’s talk about just how common it is, what it is, and some ways to identify eczema.

More Common Than You Think

Oddly enough, most adults who now suffer from eczema probably began getting symptoms before the age of five. It is further estimated that perhaps 20% of all school children have eczema to some degree and of those, many will grow to adulthood experiencing bouts of atopic eczema. Also, it is rare to find anyone over the age of twenty getting an outbreak of eczema for the first time. Typically, three of every five people who suffered eczema as a child will get periodic flareups. Furthermore, by the time those children reach their teenage years, many will not have any more flareups. Of those who do, symptoms can range from mild to severe which we will discuss in more detail in a moment.

What It Is

Loosely defined, atopic eczema is a form of dermatitis that manifests in bumps, many of which are itchy and in severe cases they can become swollen, feverish, and often painful. The etymology of dermatitis as an inflammation of the skin stems from the root words “derm” (skin) and “titis” (inflammation). So then atopic eczema is simply that, skin that is inflamed.

Often, eczema is equated with dermatitis, of which it is one form, but there are other kinds of dermatitis as well. Or, to put it another way, there are different types of dermatitis defined by what causes them. With that in mind, let’s look at how you get eczema which should reveal the cause.

How Do You Get Eczema?

Here is where it starts to get a little more confusing. Experts admit they really don’t know what causes eczema but what they do know is that approximately 80% of children where both parents suffered from eczema will be genetically predisposed to the condition. Then, about 60% of children where one parent has suffered eczema will also be genetically predisposed to atopic eczema as well. Although this doesn’t exactly explain how you get eczema, it is a start.

They really don’t know what causes eczema other than a correlation between dry skin and eczema. There is an extensive body of articles on the Patient website with more in-depth information on this form of dermatitis. The purpose of the site is to inform readers so that they can live healthier. Information on the site also notes that eczema can result from insufficient oils to keep skin hydrated. However, there is another school of thought that finds eczema to be an allergic reaction that triggers an immune response.

As eczema within the scope of dermatitis becomes more widely studied and understood, the root cause, or causes, may one day be proven. Until that time, experts believe you can get eczema as a result of:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Allergies
  • Climate changes
  • Allergens such as dust mites
  • Pollution
  • Infections
  • Diet

One example you have probably seen time and again is when the climate changes to those bitterly cold winter months. There is plenty of moisture outdoors, but you spend little time there. When you step back inside you are subjected to dry heat. Therefore, a climate change leads to environmental conditions resulting in dry skin which, in turn, can manifest in an outbreak of eczema.

Even so, scientists aren’t quite sure why these things happen, but there is a pattern to suggest there is a connection. In most cases, whether an immune response or the result of dry skin in need of hydration, treatments remain fairly standard.

Symptoms to Look For

While you know that atopic eczema can be quickly identified as a rash, it can be the location of the rash that matters as well. For young children, the rash is usually found on the face, the back of their elbows and the top of their knees whereas in adults you would be inclined to call that rash eczema if it is located on the:

  • Back (inside) of the knees
  • Arms
  • Hands
  • Feet

However, this isn’t written in stone because some small children experience that rash on their arms while adults can get that rash on their face, the same as you’d see on very small kids.

Treatments for Atopic Eczema

If there is thing that is common for all forms of eczema and for use in almost all ages, it would be treatment protocol. Bear in mind that atopic eczema is considered to be an inflammation, so a steroid topical cream is often prescribed. This not only reduces the inflammation but can alleviate itching and pain as well. A treatment regimen, however, begins with precautions and has a three-part focus to include:

  1. Avoiding allergens and pollutants
  2. Emollients (moisturisers) to be applied daily
  3. Topical steroids

Some doctors only prescribe steroid creams and ointments when the rash is inflamed but others find that it is also effective to prevent inflammation and infection in heavier rashes that appear to be headed that way.

A Few Odds and Ends

All of this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to diagnosing and treating this one of the more common types of dermatitis. For instance, one of the known allergens mentioned above happened to be dust mites. There are other food or air borne allergens that may also trigger an episode to some lesser or greater degree.

With that said, you may be able to narrow down whether the underlying causes are the immune responses to allergens, but it might be a lengthy process of trial and error. Perhaps you could start with things you know you are allergic to by reducing your tendency to ‘cheat’ every now and again.

On the other hand, if dry skin is a contributing factor, why not buy a high-quality moisturiser to use daily? Since you know what the potential causes may be, perhaps a prophylactic approach would be best. Wage war on atopic eczema by avoidance and treatment. Avoid that which ‘could’ cause an outbreak and just to be safe, keep your skin as moisturised as possible so that it probably won’t dry and crack.

One final word of caution might be in a reminder that severe outbreaks with open, weeping sores can quickly become infected if left untreated. Some may be exposed to a viral infection and other times that infection could be bacterial. They can be treated with antiviral or antibiotic prescriptions, respectively. Unfortunately, once they become that inflamed to the point where sores weep or pustules develop, treatment may be prolonged.

Although the treatments mentioned here are found to be effective, it is always in your best interests to get a definite diagnosis from a qualified doctor.