What is eczema?
Although the term eczema is often used for atopic dermatitis, there are several other skin diseases that are eczemas as well. A partial list of eczemas includes: atopic dermatitis, nummular eczema (coin shape), dyshidrotic eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, irritant contact dermatitis, and allergic contact dermatitis. All types of eczema cause itching and redness and some will blister, weep or peel.
Atopic dermatitis often affects people who suffer from asthma and/or hay fever or have family members who do. The word 'atopic' was originally used to describe the allergic conditions asthma and hay fever.
Atopic dermatitis is not contagious. It almost always begins in childhood, usually during infancy. Its symptoms are dry, itchy, scaly skin, cracks behind the ears, and rashes on the cheeks, arms and legs. It alternately improves and worsens. During flare-ups, open weeping or crusted sores may develop from scratching or from infections.
Atopic dermatitis is a common disease, present worldwide, though it is more common in urban areas and developed countries. An estimated 10 percent of all people are at some time affected by atopic dermatitis (this may not apply in the tropics). It affects men and women of all races equally.