Eczema is a general name that can cover a variety of usually very itchy disease processes. The more common are contact dermatitis (for example, poison oak) and atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis affects about 15% of children in some countries, including the USA. Atopic dermatitis runs in families and usually begins before the age of five years, commonly during infancy. Fortunately, many people stop experiencing symptoms by early adulthood. People with atopic dermatitis may also have asthma or seasonal allergies, but atopic dermatitis is not caused by allergies.
Atopic dermatitis symptoms include dry skin and redness/inflammation, which creates very itchy skin. Scratching is common as a result of all the itching, which can cause raw areas, sometimes with oozing and crusting. Skin infections can be a result of this process.
In the very young, eczema is commonly found on the face, scalp, feet, and hands. In older children and adults it can move to the inside of the knees and elbows. Other common areas are the eyelids, neck, hands, and feet, although it can appear on any area of the body. Quality of life is significantly impacted for people with moderate-to-severe eczema.
New medications that we are studying, have been shown to significantly decrease the disease and the impact it has on lives. The pipeline of new treatments being discovered for atopic dermatitis is promising. Oregon Medical Research Center has ongoing studies with these new medications.