ID: 160
Category: Skin Condition
CreatedBy: 1
UpdatedBy: 1
createdon: 12 Feb 2023
updatedon: 22 Jun 2023

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Author: Khoa Tran
Published Feb 12, 2023
Updated Jun 22, 2023

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Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)

Etymology and Pronunciation

eczema (ihk-ZEE-muh)
ze- / zeo (ζέω) - Greek for "boil" or "bubble" or "seethe"
zym / zyme (ζύμη) - Greek for "fermentation" or "leaven". Related word "enzyme" comes from the Greek word "enzymos" which means "in yeast".

atopic (uh-top-ik)
atopos (ἄτοπος) - Greek for "out of place"

dermatitis (dur-muh-TYE-tis)
derma - Greek for "skin"
-itis - Greek for "inflammation"

History of Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)

In ancient Egyptian texts predating the formal identification of eczema, there were accounts of similar skin conditions. The Ebers Papyrus, one of the oldest known medical documents believed to have been written over 3,000 years ago, contains descriptions of skin issues.

Although the Ebers Papyrus does not explicitly mention eczema, people have speculated that it wouldn't be surprising if the documented cases referred to this condition. Remedies mentioned in the papyrus for "enduring itch" included compresses made of mixtures containing beans and onions, as well as milk and sea salt.

The term "eczema" was coined in 1817 by two English doctors, Robert Willan and Thomas Bateman. They used this term to describe a rash characterized by fluid-filled blisters, resembling a sunburn. However, it is important to note that this early description differs from the various types of eczema commonly recognized today.

During the early 1900s, dermatology began to establish itself as a distinct field separate from general medicine. Dermatologists adopted a more specialized approach to studying the skin, differentiating between various skin conditions, including eczema. These efforts led to the categorization of skin conditions based on their symptoms and appearance, facilitating more targeted research and understanding of conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

In 1933, a description of the most prevalent form of eczema known today emerged. This form, known as atopic dermatitis, was named after the term "atopy," which denotes a predisposition to immune responses to diverse antigens/allergens, and "dermatitis," which refers to inflamed skin. Atopic dermatitis is characterized by allergen-related, itchy, and inflamed skin.

A significant breakthrough in eczema treatment occurred in the 1950s with the introduction of corticosteroids. Corticosteroids provided substantial and reliable relief for patients, while also paving the way for further understanding of the condition and the search for non-steroidal treatments. Compound F, later known as hydrocortisone, was synthesized by two researchers in 1952, marking the development of topical anti-inflammatories.

Modern Understanding of Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a common skin condition that affects millions of people around the world. It is characterized by red, itchy, and inflamed skin that can sometimes form scaly or crusty patches. Eczema often occurs in infants and young children, but it can affect people of all ages.

The symptoms of eczema can vary depending on the severity of the condition. Mild cases of eczema may only have small patches of red, itchy skin, while more severe cases can cause widespread inflammation and open sores. The skin may also become thick and discolored over time.

Causes of Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)

The exact cause of eczema is not known, but it is thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. People with a family history of eczema, asthma, or allergies are more likely to develop the condition. Here are some of the factors that may contribute to the development of eczema:

- Genetics: People who have a family history of eczema or other allergic conditions like asthma or hay fever are more likely to develop eczema.
- Immune system dysfunction: Eczema is often associated with an overactive immune system that responds abnormally to triggers that are harmless to most people. 
- Skin barrier dysfunction: People with eczema often have a damaged skin barrier that allows moisture to escape and irritants to enter the skin, which can trigger an inflammatory response. 
- Environmental factors: Exposure to certain environmental factors like cold, dry air, dust mites, pet dander, and pollen can trigger or exacerbate eczema symptoms. 
- Stress: Emotional stress can trigger eczema symptoms or make them worse.

Treatments for Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)

Eczema is a skin condition that can cause redness, itching, flaking, and dryness on the skin. There are several treatments available for eczema, and the choice of treatment depends on the severity of the condition.

- Moisturizing: Keeping the skin moisturized is essential for treating eczema. Moisturizers help to soothe the skin and reduce the itchiness associated with the condition.
- Topical steroids: Topical steroids are applied to the affected areas of the skin to reduce inflammation and itching. These steroids come in different strengths, and the strength required depends on the severity of the eczema.
- Oral steroids: In severe cases of eczema, an oral steroid may be prescribed. Oral steroids are effective in reducing inflammation, but they can have side effects if used for a long time.
- Antihistamines: Antihistamines can help reduce itching and discomfort associated with eczema. These drugs block the effects of histamine, a substance that is released during an allergic reaction.
- Immunosuppressants: In some cases, immunosuppressants may be prescribed to suppress the immune system and reduce inflammation associated with eczema.

It is important to consult a healthcare professional before starting any treatment for eczema. A healthcare professional can help to determine the best course of treatment based on the severity of the condition and other factors such as age and medical history.

Lifestyle Changes

- Moisturize regularly: Keep your skin well-hydrated by applying a moisturizer immediately after bathing or showering. Look for fragrance-free and hypoallergenic options that are specifically formulated for sensitive skin.
- Avoid triggers: Identify and avoid substances that can trigger eczema flare-ups. Common triggers include certain soaps, detergents, fragrances, and fabrics like wool or synthetic materials. Opt for mild, fragrance-free products and wear soft, breathable clothing made from natural fibers such as cotton.
- Maintain proper hygiene: Practice good hygiene, but avoid hot showers or baths as they can dry out the skin. Use lukewarm water and mild, fragrance-free cleansers. Gently pat your skin dry instead of rubbing it vigorously.
- Manage stress: Stress can exacerbate eczema symptoms for some individuals. Explore stress-management techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or engaging in hobbies that promote relaxation. Getting enough sleep is also crucial for managing stress and maintaining overall skin health.
- Maintain a healthy diet: Although there is limited scientific evidence linking specific foods to eczema flare-ups, some individuals may find that certain foods trigger their symptoms. Keep a food diary to identify any potential triggers and consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian to explore dietary modifications, if needed.
- Avoid scratching: Itching can worsen eczema and lead to skin damage and infections. Keep your nails short, wear gloves at night if scratching during sleep is a concern, and use cool compresses or anti-itch creams to alleviate the itchiness.
- Humidify the air: Dry air can worsen eczema symptoms. Use a humidifier in your home, especially during the winter months or in dry climates, to add moisture to the air and prevent excessive drying of the skin.
- Be cautious with temperature extremes: Extreme temperatures, both hot and cold, can trigger eczema flare-ups. Protect your skin from excessive heat, cold, and humidity. In cold weather, wear gloves, scarves, and layers to protect your skin from drying out or becoming irritated.

Remember, eczema can vary greatly from person to person, and what works for one individual may not work for another. It is important to work closely with a dermatologist or healthcare professional to develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses your specific needs and concerns.


Thickened skin on rash
Small, raised bumps, on brown or Black skin
Oozing and crusting of rash
Darkening of the skin around the eyes
Raw, sensitive skin from scratching
Skin itchiness
Skin dryness
Patchy rash

Confirmation Tests

- Patch testing

Supplimentary Articles

Eczema: origin story