Eczema is the umbrella name given to a number of non-contagious skin conditions that cause an itchy, scaly rash. The two most common types are atopic and contact dermatitis. An overactive immune system and genetic changes can cause the atopic form, while contact dermatitis develops when the skin is irritated by direct contact with a substance. Eczema affects about one-third of the population, mostly children under five years old.
Studies show that people with eczema are more likely to have a genetic mutation that causes a deficiency in the protein filaggrin, which is in the skin's outer layer responsible for keeping moisture in but germs and chemicals out. People with filaggrin deficiency develop dry skin where irritants and allergens can enter. In atopic dermatitis, the immune system responds to these substances with inflammation, redness, and itching.
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