Understanding Eczema: The Basics

What Is Eczema?

Picture of Eczema

Eczema is a group of conditions that cause inflammation of the skin.

Typically, eczema causes skin to become itchy, red, and dry -- even cracked and leathery. Eczema can appear on any part of the body.

Eczema is a chronic problem for many people. It's most common in infants, many of whom outgrow it before adulthood.

People with eczema have a higher risk of having allergic conditions like asthma or hay fever.

Atopic dermatitis is the most common of the many types of eczema.


What Causes Eczema?

Eczema runs in families. Certain genes can cause some people to have extra-sensitive skin. An overactive immune system is thought to play a part, too. And some people think that defects in the skin contribute to eczema. These defects can allow moisture out through the skin and let germs in.

Things that may trigger eczema include:

  • Stress
  • Contact with irritating substances such as wool, synthetic fabrics, and soap
  • Heat and sweat
  • Cold, dry climates
  • Dry skin
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on July 16, 2020


SOURCE: American Academy of Dermatology.

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