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Childhood Eczema Often Persists Into Adulthood

There are steps people can take to reduce or ease flare-ups, experts say

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In a five-year follow-up period, 64 percent of patients said they never experienced a six-month stretch of time where they were not applying a medication to their skin. By the age of 20, however, 50 percent of the study participants had at least one six-month period where they were free of eczema symptoms and treatment, according to a journal news release.

Symptoms "seem to persist well into the second decade of a child's life and likely longer," the study authors wrote.

The researchers pointed out that the children involved in the study had severe cases of eczema, which were associated with symptoms that were more difficult to treat.

Another expert said there are things children and parents can do to minimize outbreaks.

"Children with eczema and their caregivers must pay special attention to their skin and be sure to adequately hydrate with the right ingredients, such as ceramides, that genetically may be lacking in their skin," said Dr. Doris Day, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

"Proper skin care must persist even during times when the eczema is under control," she added. "Stress management is also especially important in this particular group as stress may be a particularly important trigger for this condition."

Zeichner agreed that "eczema continues to be a therapeutic challenge for dermatologists, as we don't have a cure. The goal of treatment is to maintain long-term remissions, prevent flares, and manage symptoms like itching."

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SOURCES: Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research, department of dermatology, Mount Sinai Hospital, New York City; Doris Day, M.D., dermatologist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; JAMA Dermatology, news release, April 2, 2014

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