Defining eczema and dermatitis
'Eczema' and 'dermatitis' have similar symptoms characterised by skin flare-up, in which the skin becomes itchy, red and dry. The underlying cause of this is an excessive reaction by the immune system which:
Causes blood vessels to swell, leading to redness
Irritates nerve endings, causing itchiness
Makes skin cells 'leak', resulting in skin swelling and dryness.
In the UK, around 1 in 12 adults suffer from eczema. Sufferers may experience 3-4 episodes per year, lasting on average 28 days (if left untreated), and although it may look unpleasant, eczema/dermatitis is not contagious. Measures can be taken to reduce the frequency and severity of flare-ups, but the skin will always need extra care.
Flare-up can also occur when the skin comes into contact with certain external irritants or allergens. This condition is called contact dermatitis, and can be triggered by a number of different factors.