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What causes eczema?

Eczema occurs when the skin barrier does not work as well as it should. Moisture is easily lost from the skin, causing it to dry out. When this occurs, irritating substances can enter through gaps in dry and scaly skin and cause inflammation, which makes the skin red and itchy. Eczema is not contagious and so cannot be passed from one person to another. An allergic reaction to everyday substances or foods may also bring on the condition. There are a number of things that can make eczema worse, including shampoo, soap, wool, dry air, wind, animal fur and some foods. Additional risk factors for eczema include: being under 6 years of age; having a family history of eczema, asthma or hay fever (allergic rhinitis); living in urban areas or places with low humidity; sensitivity to latex; stress, particularly if it leads to scratching, and; use of immunosuppressant medications, such as cyclosporin and methotrexate.

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About this article

Author: Lauren Donley BSc (Hons)
First answered: 06 Nov 2014
Last reviewed: 19 May 2018
Rating: 4.9 out of 5
Votes: 1346 (Click smiley face below left to rate)
Category: Eczema


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