eczema (ĕkˈsəmə) [key], acute or chronic skin disease characterized by redness, itching, serum-filled blisters, crusting, and scaling. Predisposing factors are familial history of allergic disorders (hay fever, asthma, or eczema) and sensitivity to contact allergens or certain foods. The condition is often irritated by excessive sweating, exposure to extreme heat or cold, and abnormal dryness or oiliness of the skin. Eczema may occur at any age and in both sexes. It is frequently chronic and difficult to treat, and it tends to disappear and recur. Itching can be extreme and severe, and it can often lead to an emotional disturbance. Treatment usually necessitates the avoidance of all unnecessary skin irritation; creams or lotions containing topical immunomodulators, such as tacrolimus (ProTopic and Eladil), or corticosteroids are sometimes helpful. Care should be taken to avoid secondary infections.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.