Eczema is a term used to describe itchy, inflamed skin. The word itself comes from a Greek word that means to bubble or boil over, and that correctly describes the inflammation that is present in skin affected by eczema. The most common type of eczema is atopic dermatitis, which affects babies, children, and adults. Usually people will have a red, itchy rash that can be present anywhere on the body. Common places include the elbows, behind the knees, outer arms, and legs. Babies often have eczema on the cheeks and chin, whereas children and adults tend to have eczema on areas with skin folds such as the neck, wrist, ankles, inner elbow, and the back of the knee. Although often times people are diagnosed with eczema in childhood, some people have very mild tendencies that are not diagnosed until adulthood. Frequently, in children who are diagnosed with eczema, their symptoms will become less severe as they grow into adults. The rash may be different in each person, or it may look different on different parts of the body. It can range in severity from mild to severe. In general, people also suffer from dry, sensitive skin. The hallmark of eczema is the intense itch, which is often unbearable. Patients frequently will scratch to the point of breaking the skin, thereby leading to even more inflammation and itching. This is known as the itch-scratch cycle, and the goal of treatment is to break this cycle.
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