The terms ‘eczema’ and ‘dermatitis’ are often used interchangeably to refer to an inflammatory condition of the skin. The term eczema is derived from the Greek word ekzein, which means ‘to boil’, and relates to the vesicles sometimes seen during an acute phase of the condition.1
There are a number of forms of eczema, but these can be broadly divided into two categories – exogenous or endogenous. Exogenous eczema is caused by a natural or synthetic substance that comes into contact with the skin, for example, contact dermatitis. Endogenous eczema is caused by internal factors within the body; the specific cause is usually unknown. The most common form of endogenous eczema is atopic eczema.
There is no definitively identified cause for atopic eczema, but it occurs in genetically susceptible individuals when exposed to environmental irritants or allergens2, commonly called ‘triggers’. Triggers are not the same for every individual, and can include pet hair; house-dust mites; pollen; and certain foods, such as cow’s milk and eggs.3
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