Frequently Asked Questions About Eczema

1What is Eczema?
Eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, is a chronic, recurring disease. This means that the disease is always present, even though flares may come and go.1,2
2What causes Eczema?
Eczema is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors that cause the skin barrier to break down and trigger an abnormal immune response.6,7
3What are the triggers of Eczema?
Allergens, stress or illness, contact with pets or grass, chemicals and soaps, changes in weather and temperature and food sensitivities.6,9,10
4Is it hereditary?
Roughly 70 % of patients with eczema have a family history of atopic diseases such as allergic asthma or allergic rhinitis. There is a 2 to 3 times higher chance of a child having eczema if one parent has it, and this increases to 3 to 5 times if both parents are affected. A child is also more likely to have eczema if their mother has it.2,11
5How will it affect my child?
Many children with eczema feel embarrassed by the look of their skin, the constant itching, and the ongoing, sometimes involuntary scratching. These flares have a major impact on various aspects of the person’s life, affecting school performance and productivity, disturbing sleep and altering self-esteem, mood and the ability to establish and maintain relationships.1,2,12
6What is an Eczema flare?
Episodes where the skin becomes red, flaky and very itchy are called flares.10
7What treatments are available?
Emollients, Topical Corticosteroids, Topical Calcineurin Inhibitors, Wet Wrap Therapy, Phototherapy, Anti-histamines.7,10,13,14,15
8Can emotions affect Eczema?
It is known that emotional factors, like stress, can make eczema worse. Finding ways to manage your stress could assist with the management of eczema flare-ups.18
9Is Eczema contagious?
Eczema is absolutely not contagious. This means that you can’t ‘catch’ the disease from another person and you can’t give it to someone by touching him or her.18
10Can you go swimming if you have eczema?
Most people with eczema can go swimming. However, some people who have severe eczema find that the chemicals used in swimming pools or the salt in sea water makes their eczema worse, so they choose not to go in. Make sure that before and after you go swimming, you rinse your skin and put on a moisturizer.18
11Is Eczema caused by poor hygiene?
Having eczema has nothing to do with personal hygiene; the disease is believed to be caused by a combination of environmental, genetic and immune system factors.  In reality, many eczema sufferers bathe much more frequently than non-eczema sufferers to help hydrate the skin!18
12Will Eczema cause permanent scars?
Although your eczema can be very uncomfortable and unpleasant, it is very unusual for it to leave any permanent marks on your skin. However, some conventional treatments can cause skin discolouration, striae (white, shiny stretch marks), and skin thinning. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about any unusual side effects from your current treatment.18
13Can Eczema be cured with steroids (Cortisone)?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for eczema. Although steroids have been used for a long time to treat eczema, they are not a cure and they do have limitations for treatment Topical corticosteroid (“steroid”) creams and ointments can quickly help to calm the redness and itching of inflamed skin, particularly for severe flares. They are not intended for long-term use (more than a couple of weeks). When steroids are used for long periods of time, side effects such as skin thinning can become apparent. Be aware that even mild steroids should not be used for an extended period of time on a child’s skin particularly in sensitive areas such as the face, neck and other skin folds.18