Eczema: Why cases among children and teens are rising
- Eczema is a chronic skin condition that can lead to unpleasant symptoms, including itchy and cracked skin.
- Treatment for eczema can include minimizing flare-ups and managing symptoms.
- Data from a recent study found that the number of children and adolescents with eczema is on the rise, but that there is great variation in prevalence based on location and income level.
- Further research is warranted to understand the variations in global eczema prevalence.
Eczema is a chronic disorder that impacts people worldwide.
Researchers are still working to understand who is most at risk for eczema and what factors influence its prevalence.
One area of interest is the prevalence of eczema among children and adolescents.
A recent study published in Clinical & Experimental Allergy collected data from 14 countries and included thousands of children and adolescents in its analysis.
Researchers reported that about 6% of children and adolescents currently have eczema symptoms. They further estimate that eczema prevalence has increased over the past decade in these age groups.
The most common type of eczema is atopic dermatitis.
The impact of eczema and approaches to treatment
Eczema is a chronic skin condition that requires long-term management.
Someone with the condition may have itchy red patches on the skin, These irritated areas may ooze. Their skin may also have areas that get thick and hard.
People with eczema may experience times when their symptoms become worse and other times when the symptoms go away completely.
Doctors can approach treatment by helping people avoid or minimize things that trigger eczema flare-ups. They may also prescribe topical medications and teach about proper skin care.
Eczema can lead to complications such as infections and impact people’s quality of life.
Dr. Steven Line, a representative of the American Cosmetic Association who was not involved in the study, explained to Medical News Today:
“The impact of eczema can be significant, affecting not only the skin but also an individual’s overall quality of life. Eczema can cause intense itching, redness, and dry, scaly skin, and can lead to sleep disturbances, decreased productivity, and decreased self-esteem.”
Several factors can contribute to someone developing eczema.
“While income and region play a role in the prevalence of eczema, many other factors also contribute to its development and progression, including genetics, environmental exposure, and lifestyle factors,” Line explained.
Trends in eczema development
This recent study examined “trends in eczema prevalence in children and adolescents.”
Researchers note that eczema is a global health concern.
They collected their data from centers participating in the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood. Researchers collected data on children and adolescents in 14 countries, ultimately involving 74,361 adolescents and 47,907 children.
They used surveys to examine the following components:
- Eczema prevalence
- Eczema severity
- Lifetime eczema prevalence
Researchers reported that “a median of 6% of children/adolescents have symptoms of current eczema.”
They further noted that there appears to have been an overall increase in the number of children and adolescents with eczema over the past 10 years.
Researchers also estimated overall increases in severe eczema symptoms and lifetime eczema prevalence.
Dr. Peter Lio, an eczema dermatologist who was not involved in the study, noted to Medical News Today:
“This is a large study from 14 countries and more than 100,000 children and adolescents. They found a 10-year increase (albeit small) in the prevalence of eczema and severe eczema. The eczema burden is substantial and the prevalence increased by nearly 1%/decade in adolescents and 1.2%/decade in children. Importantly, however, there is a lot of heterogeneity between locations and environments, suggesting that this is a complex problem that has external factors driving it as well.”
There was great variation in the increase of eczema prevalence, some of which may be related to income levels.
However, the findings suggest that multiple factors may be influencing these trends.
The study authors noted the following:
“More understanding of why the prevalence of eczema is increasing in some settings is a major priority. From a health services and disease burden perspective, there is a need to focus research efforts on understanding why the prevalence of severe eczema symptoms is particularly high in specific geographical locations.”
Study limitations and continued research
This research did have a few limitations.
First, researchers were limited by the centers that participated, which mostly represented urban rather than rural settings. So, the sample doesn’t necessarily reflect the global population.
Data changes and availability present challenges that limit the study’s conclusions. The data also relied on self-reporting from parents and participants, which does limit the accuracy of data collection.
The study authors noted plans for further research to study eczema risk factors. They concluded the following:
“Global research efforts are needed to address the burden related to eczema with continued international efforts to identify strategies to prevent the onset of eczema and to better manage the impact on individuals, their families, and health services.”
Lio further noted how the increases in eczema prevalence may impact approaches to clinical practice:
“We’re seeing more patients with eczema and more patients with severe eczema. That means we require more and better treatments as each individual has different needs–many of these continue to be unmet. Moreover, we need new treatment paradigms and approaches. Simply chasing after itch and inflammation may not be enough, especially if there are other factors such as the microbiome, the skin barrier, and nerve endings that may be directly playing a role.”
As research in this area progresses, researchers said the management of eczema symptoms may improve and strategies may differ based on region and need.
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