Eczema is a chronic condition characterized by dry, red, swollen and extremely itchy skin. Eczema is not contagious but it is believed to have a hereditary connection. Research has identified the common trait that most of the time atopic dermatitis, the most common form of eczema, is inherited from one or both of an individual’s parents. If a person has one parent who suffers from eczema, they have a one-in-four chance of developing the condition. If both parents have eczema, the likelihood is increased to one-in-two chances. Most individuals who have two parents who suffer from eczema do indeed develop the skin disorder. Additionally, many people who develop eczema also have a genetic tendency to develop other allergy-related health problems such as hay fever and asthma.
Approximately thirty percent of infants will develop eczema. Luckily, many will outgrow it by the time they reach three to five years of age. In babies, it generally first appears between the ages of four to six months and it begins with the appearance of a red rash that might ooze fluid. It then spreads to the cheeks and the forehead and sometimes continues to the baby’s arms and legs. In the most severe of cases, a baby’s entire body may be covered with the skin disease. When a baby has cradle cap, or infantile seborrhoeic eczema, a great deal of scaling appears on the scalp although it does not itch.
Some infants are not lucky enough to outgrow their eczema; they carry it into their childhood years. For those who are predisposed to develop it for heriditary reasons, but did not do so in their infancy, they have the potential to develop it anytime between the ages of two and four years of age. In typical bouts of childhood eczema, the rash first appears behind the knees, the ankles, in the creases of the elbows and sometimes will even affect the child’s face, neck and ears. It is generally very itchy and subsequently requires a topical steroid cream. Childhood eczema normally disappears sometime between the ages of ten and twelve, although some children continue to suffer from it well into their teenage and adulthood years.
Adult atopic eczema often begins during a person’s twenties. In this case it often continues throughout the majority of a person’s life. It is normally characterized by large spots of itchy, swollen, red, and oozing skin. Adult eczema tends to affect people in the wrists, elbow creases, neck area, behind the knees and the ankles. Sufferers of adult eczema often see an improvement during middle age, particularly in their forties or fifties. Atopic eczema rarely begins in senior citizens. There is another form of eczema that shows itself in older people; it is called varicose eczema. This kind of eczema afflicts the ankles and is, for the most part, a result of poor circulation to the legs.
Despite the fact that many children outgrow their eczema, they commonly have a lifelong tendency to have skin problems. These problems include hand dermatitis; dry skin that chaps and gets easily irritated; skin infections like staph, yeast infections and herpes simplex, like cold sores, and eye problems such as cataracts and eyelid dermatitis.