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What is Eczema?


Eczema is derived from a Greek word meaning "to boil out", possibly because people with eczema tend to overheat as their skin does not regulate temperature properly. "Eczema" is also the general term for any type of dermatitis that is itchy.

There are many types of eczema and most look red and inflamed and some will blister, weep or peel. Eczema typically affects the insides of the elbows, backs of the knees and the face but some types of eczema can cover most of the body.


Diagnosing Eczema ...

Eczema is diagnosed using the following criteria. Firstly, you must have itchy skin plus three or more of the following symptoms:
  • itchiness in the skin creases, such as the folds behind the knees and elbows, fronts of the ankles or around the neck (children under four years may also have it on their cheeks)  
  • dry skin
  • visible eczema affecting the outer limbs, cheeks or forehead
  • symptoms appearing within two years of birth (not always an indication, but very common)
  • family history of asthma, hay fever or (if under four years old) a history of atopic disease in a first-degree relative.(1)   

Other symptoms include oozing and weeping in between the skin folds (such as elbows and knees); thickening of the skin, poor sleep, flaking skin, and scratch marks from scratching.


Karen Fischer, 2014, 'What is eczema?', edited extract from The Eczema Diet  (Exisle Publishing).



The Itchy Dozen Worst Foods for Eczema 

What is the difference between eczema and dermatitis?

Eczema and MSG Sensitivity

References: Fischer, K, 2014, 'What is eczema?', edited extract from The Eczema Diet  (Exisle Publishing); 1. Brenninkmeijer, E.E.A., et al., 2008, ‘Diagnostic criteria for atopic dermatitis: a systematic review’, British  Journal of Dermatology.   Top photo of Nanny Sue and Ayva when she had eczema at age one.

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  • Lachie Graham on

    Hi Karen,
    My partner, Amanda, is today on Day 280, Stage One.
    In my mind, she has shown great strength and courage, a few tears and, somehow, much laughter. She has definitely turned the corner, finally. However, we remain on Stage One, as she is still prone to bad days, every week.
    Thank You Karen – we would not be where we are today, without your guidance. Your EXCELLENT Book, is a LightHouse in a Sea of Darkness.
    Best Wishes and Merry Christmas to you and yours.

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