Q: How common is eczema?

A. Eczema is a common skin condition, affecting as many as 15 million Americans. It can occur in both children and adults, but it most often occurs in very young children. Ten percent to 20 percent of all infants are affected by eczema (National Institutes of Health), although nearly half outgrow the condition. It affects males and females equally, and is more common in people who have a personal or family history of asthma and allergies.

Q: Are there any complications associated with eczema?

A. Scratching or rubbing the rash or itchy areas can break the skin, which can then become infected. Permanent scars can form when the skin is damaged from prolonged scratching. Very itchy eczema can also disturb sleep. Some people with eczema avoid social activities because they are uncomfortable and/or self-conscious.

Q: What is the outlook for people with eczema?

A. Nearly half of children with eczema will outgrow the condition or experience great improvement by the time they reach puberty. Others will continue to have some form of the disease. For adults with eczema, the disease can generally be well managed with good skin care and treatment, although flare-ups of symptoms can occur throughout life.

Q: Can eczema be prevented?

A. There are steps you can take to prevent eczema outbreaks, including:

  • Establish a skin care routine, and follow your doctor’s recommendations for keeping your skin healthy
  • Wear gloves for jobs that require putting your hands in water. Wear cotton gloves under plastic gloves to absorb sweat, and wear gloves outside, especially during the winter months
  • Use mild soap for your bath or shower, and pat your skin dry instead of rubbing. Apply a moisturizing lotion immediately after drying your skin to help seal in the moisture. Reapply lotion 2 to 3 times a day
  • Drink at lease 8 glasses of water each day. Water helps to keep your skin moist
  • Try to avoid getting too hot and sweaty
  • Wear loose clothes made of cotton and other natural materials. Wash new clothing before wearing. Avoid wool
  • Avoid sudden changes in temperature and humidity
  • Learn to recognize stress in your life and how to manage it. Regular aerobic exercise, hobbies, and stress-management techniques — such as meditation or yoga — might help
  • Limit your exposure to known irritants and allergens
  • Avoid scratching or rubbing itchy areas of skin

Q: Can eczema be cured?

A. Currently, there is no cure for eczema. However, proper treatment and good skin care can often control or minimize symptoms.