Eczema is a condition that causes the skin to become itchy, red, dry and cracked. It is a long-term, or chronic, condition.

Atopic eczema commonly occurs in areas with folds of skin, such as:

  1. behind the knees
  2. the inside of the elbows
  3. on the side of the neck
  4. around the eyes and ears

Atopic eczema can vary in severity and most people are only mildly affected. Severe symptoms include cracked, sore and bleeding skin.

People with atopic eczema usually have periods when symptoms are less noticeable, as well as flare-ups when symptoms become more severe, needing additional treatment.


What causes atopic eczema?

The exact cause of atopic eczema is unknown. However, it often occurs in people who get allergies ("atopic" means sensitivity to allergens).

Atopic eczema can run in families and often occurs alongside other conditions, such as asthma and hay fever.


Treating atopic eczema 

Atopic eczema clears up or significantly improves in many children as they get older. In about 53% of cases, atopic eczema clears up by the time a child reaches 11 years of age, and in 65% of cases it clears up by 16 years of age.

However, severe eczema often has a significant impact on daily life and may be difficult to cope with physically and mentally. There is also an increased risk of infections. 


Many different types of treatment can be used to control symptoms and manage eczema, including medication and self-help techniques. 

The main treatments are:

  1. emollients (moisturising treatments) – used all the time for dry skin
  2. topical corticosteroids – used to reduce swelling and redness during flare-ups


Who is affected?

About one in five children in the UK has eczema. In 8 out of 10 cases, atopic eczema occurs before a child reaches five years of age. Many children develop it before their first birthday.

The number of people diagnosed with atopic eczema has increased in recent years. This could be because of changes in lifestyle or environmental factors that cause eczema, or because healthcare professionals are now more aware of the symptoms.

Males and females are affected equally.



Classification of the eczemas :


  1. Irritant

  2. Allergic


  1. Atopic

  2. Seborrhoeic

  3. Discoid

  4. Asteatotic

  5. Gravitational

  6. Localised neurodermatitis

  7. Pompholyx



  1. In the former, there is no secretion whereas in the latter, water may come out from the patches, either by scratching or without it.

  2. Redness and swelling, usually with ill-defined margin

  3. Papules, vesicles and more rarely large blisters.

  4. Exudation and cracking.

  5. Scaling.

  6. Lichenification, a dry leathery thickening with increased skin markings, is secondary to rubbing and scratching.

  7. Fissures and scratch marks.

  8. Pigmentation.