Atopic Eczema

Atopic eczema is probably the most common form of eczema.  Very common in children, but also in adults.  The condition can be chronic (long term) with some people only having small patches of dry skin, whilst others may experience widespread skin inflammation all over their body.  People with atopic eczema may go through periods where symptoms are less noticeable but also periods of time when their condition becomes more severe with regular flare-ups.

Symptoms of Atopic Eczema

Atopic eczema causes the skin to become dry, cracked, inflamed and sore. The inflamed areas may appear red on lighter skin and darker brown, purple or greyish on darker skin, which makes it more difficult to see.  

Atopic eczema can affect any part of the body but it is commonly found on the hands, inside of the elbows, backs of the knees, face and scalp.

Causes of Atopic Eczema

‘Atopic’ means sensitivity to allergens.  The exact cause of atopic eczema is unknown, but it can run in families and can develop alongside other conditions, for example, hayfever and asthma. The symptoms of this type of eczema are often caused by certain triggers, such as the weather, soaps, detergents and stress.  Food allergies can also play a part, especially in children with severe conditions.  Allergy tests completed by a medical professional may be helpful in identifying the specific symptom triggers.

When to Seek Medical Help and Advice

If you feel you have the symptoms of atopic eczema, you should see your GP who should be able to quickly make a general diagnosis by looking at your skin.  They will need to know things like:

  • When did your symptoms begin?
  • Does the condition come and go?
  • Where does the rash appear?
  • How does your skin feel?
  • Is there any family history of atopic eczema?
  • What is your lifestyle like? 
  • Is there anything currently that you feel may be contributing to your skin’s condition?

Treating Atopic Eczema

Sadly, there is no current ‘cure’ for atopic eczema, which, for those who suffer with it, can be a long and challenging journey which impacts on daily life, both physically and mentally. At best, there is treatment available which can help to relieve the symptoms and bring about improvement over time. People affected are also at a higher risk of skin infections.

There are lots of different treatments available to help control the symptoms and manage the eczema:-

  • Emollients are used to moisturise the skin on a daily basis
  • Topical corticosteroids to reduce swelling, redness and itching during flare ups
  • Self-care techniques such as avoiding scratching and avoiding known triggers
  • Wet wraps and paste bandages are soothing to the skin and help to break the itch-scratch cycle, helping the skin to heal


Other Types of Eczema

Contact Dermatitis – a type of eczema that occurs when the skin has been in contact with a particular substance or allergen.

Discoid eczema – a type of eczema that forms circular or oval patches on the body.

Seborrhoeic eczema – red, scaly patches develop on the sides of the nose, eyebrows, ears and scalp.

Dishidrotic eczema (pompholyx) – a type of eczema where tiny blisters form across the palms of the hands.

Varicose eczema – A type of eczema which occurs on the lower legs caused by problems with the blood flow through the veins.  This is often also associated where there is an active leg ulceration.