Eczema is an itchy skin rash and is 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.
The word eczema is derived from a Greek word meaning ‘to boil out’ – because people with eczema can overheat easily. This occurs because their skin does not regulate temperature properly (this can occur when the skin barrier is damaged).
Quality of life
Eczema can have a debilitating affect on a person’s quality of life and it can impact their family too. Sleepless nights caused by itching and stress, can strain relationships and affect a person’s ability to work and socialise. Flare-ups can lead to missed days at school and work, and in severe instances, hospitalization may be required.
Children with eczema may want to stay home from school or will wear their long-sleeved winter uniform all year round because their skin rash causes embarrassment.
An eczema epidemic
Research shows that eczema sufferers spend up to $2000 on eczema treatments each year and 36 per cent of sufferers spend more than 10 minutes each day applying topical steroids and emollients. Despite this, the number of people with eczema is rising and has tripled in recent years. Now 20 percent of people in the developed world have eczema and it’s mostly babies and children who are suffering.
- one in five children suffers from eczema
- 2 million people in Australia have eczema and almost 6 million Australians will suffer from eczema at some point in their life (that's 1 in every 3 people)
- Atopic eczema (with allergies) is the most common form of eczema among Australasians.
- 31.6 million people have eczema in the United States
- There are more than 6 million eczema sufferers in the United Kingdom
- In New Zealand, more than 10 per cent of people have eczema.
At what age does eczema commonly appear?
Eczema affects people of all ages, however, eczema usually appears in early childhood (by six months of age) and can disappear around age six, although some people have it for life if they don't make dietary changes.
Around 50 per cent of all eczema sufferers have symptoms before their first birthday, and 20 per cent develop eczema before the age of five. Eczema which appears later in life is usually triggered by poor diet, stress and/or environmental factors such as high chemical exposure.
Fischer, K., 2014, 'Eczema Facts' edited extract from The Eczema Diet, Second edition, Exisle Publishing.