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Eczema is a general term for the several skin inflammations types that exist. Most types of eczema have very similar symptoms and the most common type is atopic dermatitis (atopic eczema).

Atopic eczema is very common. It is a chronic, non-contagious disease. When suffering from atopic eczema, the skin becomes very itchy, with redness, cracking and swelling. The body goes through periods where the skin improves greatly and periods where the symptoms worsen.

Atopic dermatitis can occur at any age but it usually starts during childhood. Affected children usually outgrow the disease soon but some people may experience symptoms through out their entire lives.

The cause of atopic eczema is unknown but it is thought to be related to an extreme response from the immune system to a skin irritant and to genetic factors. This disease is also related to a poorly functioning immune system. Emotional conditions such as stress can worsen the symptoms of eczema but do not cause it.

Main features of eczema are:

- Itching
- Rashes
- Chronic symptoms
- Family history of eczema

Irritants that may exacerbate eczema:

- Wool and synthetic fibers
- Soaps, detergents
- Dust, sand
- Perfumes, cosmetics
- Chlorine, solvents
- Cigarette smoke

The treatment for eczema will vary depending on the age, symptoms and health of the patient. The main two goals when treating eczema are healing the skin and preventing recurrences. Doctors will usually recommend a skin care routine, avoidance of substances that are known to trigger symptoms and in some cases medication.

Following these steps can prevent recurrence of symptoms:

- Moisturize skin frequently
- Avoid sweating
- Reduce stress levels
- Avoid fibers that are scratchy such as wool
- Avoid soaps and detergents that are known to irritate you skin.

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