Eczema: Does the skin condition worse with age? Experts have their say

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Now experts in the field of dermatology can confirm you’re not deceiving yourself, eczema really can get worse with age. Medically termed dermatitis, the skin condition can be a hereditary nightmare. Sore, red and scaly marks can just be the beginning of a flare-up, with more disturbing symptoms developing over time.

Dr Firas Al-Niaimi, Group Medical Director at sk:n – the UK’s leading medical skincare clinic group offering world leading dermatology expertise – said: “Eczema can get worse with age as the skin barrier weakens, which results in the skin becoming drier.

“This will lead to a disrupted barrier function and will result in the eczema becoming worse.”

To explain this further, the National Eczema Society paints a picture of how the skin barrier works.

“Think of [your skin] as a brick wall,” it says. “The outer skin cells are the bricks, while fats and oils act as the mortar that keeps everything together and acts as a seal.

“The skin cells attract and keep water inside, and the fats and oils also help keep the water in.

“If you have eczema, your skin may not produce as much fats and oils as other people’s, and will be less able to retain water.

“Moisture is then lost from the deeper layers of the skin… and is prone to drying out and is easily damaged, making the skin more liable to become red and inflamed on contact with irritants.”

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Dr Ross Perry, medical director of skin clinics chain Cosmedics, says that a “vast range of potential triggers” could influence a person’s eczema.

“For some,” Dr Perry says, “it is external factors, such as exposure to irritants. So if a person’s career requires them to use products such as hand gel or cleaning agents, then that could easily cause eczema flare-ups”.

“Having the hands wet often or exposed to the cold can also make eczema flare up in later life.”

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Dr Perry confesses: “Eczema is a surprisingly complex skin condition.”

“Some patients find that their eczema improves with age, while for others it gets worse,” he adds. “Hormones can be a factor.”

And Dr Perry advises all eczema sufferers to regularly moisturise with a non-irritant.

“Whenever there’s a flare-up, try to get it under control as quickly as possible,” he continued.

“This may require a prescription cream or ointment. Don’t be afraid to revisit your doctor. If you’re a long-term eczema sufferer, there may be some new creams that could help.”

The NHS outlines that there are five types of eczema: discoid, contact dermatitis, varicose, seborrhoea and dyshidrotic.

Discoid eczema

This is a type of eczema that occurs in circular or oval patches on the skin.

Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is when eczema occurs when the body comes into contact with a particular substance.

Varicose eczema

This type of eczema mostly affects the lower legs and is caused by issues with the flow of blood through the leg veins.

Seborrhoea eczema

This is when red, scaly patches develop on the sides of the nose, eyebrows, ears and scalp.

Dyshidrotic eczema

Also known as pompholyx, this is eczema that causes tiny blisters to erupt across the palms of the hand.

Whatever type of eczema you may suffer from, try to avoid any known triggers, moisturise with emollients on a daily basis and more powerful treatments can be offered by a dermatologist.

If you’re interested in seeking professional treatment for your eczema, visit sk:n or Cosmedics clinics.

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