Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)

Understand eczema, and its causes and symptoms.

Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)


Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis is when you have chronic itchy, dry and cracked skin. It is a common, non-contagious skin disorder more typical in young children but it can affect people of all ages.


The exact cause of eczema is not fully understood, but it is thought to be an immune-mediated disorder in which the immune system provokes an inappropriate inflammatory response. The main risk factors are having had allergies, hay fever or asthma in the past. You also have an increased risk of eczema if you have family members especially both parents or a sibling with these conditions.

Eczema has periods when symptoms are more noticeable called flare-ups. What triggers flare-ups varies for different people but some of the most common causes are:

  • Allergens (dust mites, pet dander, pollen, mould, and certain foods)
  • Skin irritants (soaps, detergents, fragrances, and some fabrics)
  • Dry skin
  • Stress


Eczema symptoms commonly appear on the hands and feet, face and neck, insides of the elbows and back of the knees. They also may be widespread skin inflammation all over the body.

Common symptoms of eczema include:

  • Itchy skin (pruritus)
  • Red and inflamed patches of skin
  • Cracked, dry and scaly skin
  • Thick leathery skin (in more severe cases)
  • Oozing fluid from small blisters

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