Dr Sarah H Wakelin



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FAQs with Dr Sarah Wakelin

What is eczema?

Eczema (also known as dermatitis) is one of the commonest skin complaints. It can start at any age and on any part of the skin, though some places are affected more commonly, such as the face, hands and skin folds. The skin is itchy and turns red and bumpy (sometimes with tiny water blisters) then dry, cracked and flaky.

It usually takes at least a week to settle and sometimes comes and goes for

many years.

What causes eczema?

There are several different kinds of eczema and they have different causes. In most people, eczema seems to happen due to an in-built tendency, for example atopic eczema which runs in families along with hay fever and asthma. Eczema can also be caused or made worse by chemicals that come into contact with the skin.

These include things like soap and washing up liquid, which irritate the skin (they are harsh chemicals) or substances that trigger an allergic reaction in certain people, such as perfume, lanolin and rubber.

Is my eczema caused by food allergy?

In babies and small children, there may be a link between eczema and food allergy – babies with severe eczema are more likely to have a food allergy than those without eczema, and sometimes, cutting the food out of their diet helps their skin.  This should only be done with the advice of a dietician to make sure that the baby does not miss out on essential nutrients.  

In older children, food allergy seems to be less important, and it is rarely of any importance in adults with eczema.

What can I do to get rid of eczema?

All kinds of eczema will benefit from gentle skin care. Steroid creams or ointment may be needed to settle the eczema and take away the heat and redness. They help break any itch-scratch cycle and give the skin a chance to heal.