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Eczema is the term used to describe a group of skin conditions that cause inflammation, itching and may cause dryness and flakiness. If itchy blisters form and then burst, the skin affected may be left moist and crusty. 

Types of Eczema

The most common form caused by oversensitivity to allergens. It is closely linked to asthma and hayfever affecting both children and adults. Known to run in families and usually begins in infancy. The most common symptom is intense itchiness and may be associated with dry skin, redness and inflammation. 

Occurs when the body reacts to a substance that comes into contact with the skin. Often occurs over a prolonged period of time where there is repeated contact e.g. reactions to perfumes, cosmetics, rubber, nickel in jewellery and belts. 

Caused by continued contact with everyday substances e.g. detergents which irritate the skin. Most common on the hands of adults. 

Affects babies under one year old (also known as cradle cap) or adults between the ages of 20 and 40. Usually starts on the scalp (or nappy area in infants) and then spreads. Causes redness, inflammation and flakiness but is not sore or itchy. Believed to be caused by a yeast growth and if becomes infected may require treatment with an anti-fungal cream. Normally this type of eczema will clear on its own although moisturisers and bath oils can help speed up the process. 

Affects the lower legs of those adults in their middle to late years. Caused by poor circulation. Commonly affects the skin around the ankles which becomes speckled, itchy and inflamed. Treatment is necessary to prevent the formation of ulcers. 

Appears suddenly on the trunk or lower legs of adults. Presents as itchy coin shaped areas of red skin that can become weepy. 


Eczema/Dermatitis is diagnosed and treated by your GP or dermatologist. Diagnosis usually occurs through examination of the affected area of the skin and may include patch testing (where small amounts of different substances are applied to the skin to rule out any allergic reactions). 


Avoid chemicals and irritants known to cause eczema. Avoid dry skin by bathing less frequently, drying off carefully and using mild soaps or soap free washes. Keep skin moisturised using an emollient. 

Although there is no cure for eczema, there are a number of treatments to minimise symptoms. 
  • Emollients
    Prevent water loss and therefore treats dryness of the skin. This also results in less itching and greater comfort. Emollients can be used as often as necessary and are available as ointments (for very dry skin), creams and lotions (for mild or wet eczema).
  • Topical Corticosteroids (e.g. ADVANTAN)
    Used to treat inflammation of the skin and come in varying potencies and formulations. What the doctor prescribes will depend on the size and body part requiring treatment, severity and type of eczema, and the age of the patient. Depending on what treatment has been prescribed, a thin layer of steroid should be applied thinly to the affected area from one to four times per day or as directed by the doctor. Topical steroids should not be used on the face unless under strict supervision by a doctor.

Prevent scratching of the skin as this can lead to a secondary infection. Infection may also occur with eczema and will need to be treated by your doctor. 

Note: Information on this site is not intended to replace the advice given by your doctor or other health professional.

Helpful Links
DermnetNZ – Eczema

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