Atopic eczema is a genetic skin condition. It is a malfunction in the upper layer of the skin that usually first appears during early childhood. Although it often clears up before adulthood, some people live with the condition for life. With proper advice and support, these people can manage the disease. It is therefore possible to avoid much physical and social discomfort.
Common symptoms include an itchy rash, dry skin, redness and inflammation. Constant scratching can cause the skin to crack, leaving it vulnerable to infection. Some people experience atopic eczema as a succession of flare-ups and remissions; others have it almost constantly.
Allergic reactions to chemicals, metals and plants can cause the skin to flare up and make the eczema worse. Eczema can also be exacerbated if it becomes infected with certain types of bacteria. Apart from allergens and bacterial infections, atopic eczema can be triggered or worsened by stress, or by seasonal climate changes such as the shift from summer to autumn when the air becomes drier.
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