Atopic Eczema

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Palm of a patient with atopic eczema. Jackson, G. (2004). Atopic Eczema - Help for Sufferers. [online] Available at [Accessed 5/12/2016]

Atopic eczema, otherwise referred to as atopic dermatitis, is a type of skin inflammatory medical condition that occurs most frequently among children. The disease is known to affect around 20% of children in the UK, regardless of sexual orientation[1]. Symptoms of atopic eczema include itchy, red, dry, and cracked skin. These symptoms can be visible throughout the body, most commonly at the backs or fronts of the knees, outside or inside of the elbows, around the neck, hands, cheeks, and scalp[2].


The specific cause of atopic eczema is unknown, though the genetic predispotition of the individual to develop the disease seem to increse the risks. For instance, the offspring of parents who suffered from atopic eczema is likely to be affected by it as well[3]. Furthermore, mutations in the gene for the production of filaggrin increase the risks of developing atopic eczema. Filaggrin is a protein involved in the retention of water in the stratum corneum. Mutations in the gene for the production of filaggrin therefore produces a non-functional filggrin protein. This leads to the drying of skin [4].

Lower levels of tolerance of the individual to allergens in the environment also seem to increase the risks. Growing up in a sanitary environment, for instance, could be a significant contributor. Allergens in the environment, which have not been exposed to the child when growing up in the sanitary enviornment, tend to be intolerable when exposed at a later stage in life. This may induce an allergic reaction[5].


There is currently no cure for the disease. However, several measures could be taken to reduce the severity of the symptoms.

Applying moisturisers could help moisten the skin, therefore reversing the effects of the drying of skin caused by the disease to a limited extent[6]. Bathing in lukewarm, salt water could also help moisten skin[7].

Intake of vitamin D has also shown to be an effective treatment for atopic eczema[8].


  1. Hoare C, Po AL, Williams H. Systematic review of treatments for atopic eczema. Health Technol Assess. 2000;4(37):1-91.
  2. NHS Choices. (2014). Atopic eczema. [online] Available at: [Accessed 5/12/2016]
  3. Ruzicka T, Ring J, Przybilla B, editors. Handbook of atopic eczema. Springer Science & Business Media; 2013 Mar 9.
  4. Jungersted JM, Scheer H, Mempel M, Baurecht H, Cifuentes L, Høgh JK, Hellgren LI, Jemec GB, Agner T, Weidinger S. Stratum corneum lipids, skin barrier function and filaggrin mutations in patients with atopic eczema. Allergy. 2010 Jul 1;65(7):911-8.
  5. Parker W. Reconstituting the depleted biome to prevent immune disorders. Evolution and Medicine Review. 2010.
  6. Loden M, Andersson AC, Lindberg M. Improvement in skin barrier function in patients with atopic dermatitis after treatment with a moisturizing cream (Canoderm [R]). British Journal of Dermatology. 1999 Feb 1;140:264-7.
  7. Siddappa K. Dry skin conditions, eczema and emollients in their management. Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology. 2003 Jan 3;69(2):69.
  8. Samochocki Z, Bogaczewicz J, Jeziorkowska R, Sysa-Jędrzejowska A, Glińska O, Karczmarewicz E, McCauliffe DP, Woźniacka A. Vitamin D effects in atopic dermatitis. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2013 Aug 31;69(2):238-44.
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