Atopic eczema

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.311.7015.1241 (Published 11 November 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:1241
  1. Hywel C Williams
  1. Senior lecturer in dermatology Queen's Medical Centre, University Hospital NHS Trust, Nottingham NG7 2UH

    We should look to the environment

    Atopic eczema now affects at least one in 10 schoolchildren in Europe.1 Affected children often have to endure intractable itching, chronic loss of sleep, and the stigma of a visible disease. Family life is also disrupted, and the costs of atopic eczema in Britain may be as high as £470 million each year, with up to half of the costs being met by patients.2 Although much scientific energy has been directed towards understanding how atopic eczema behaves at a cellular level, the causes of the disease are still poorly understood. While few doubt the importance of genetic predisposition,3 recent observations from a range of sources suggest that environmental factors may also be crucial.

    Several studies have suggested that the prevalence of eczema has increased twofold to threefold over the past 30 years.3 Some of this increase probably reflects changes in the way in which parents and doctors use the label of “eczema,” but the magnitude and continuity of the trends, the consistency among different studies, and the reports of similar …

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