Eczema May Stick Around for Life

Eczema lessened with age but did not fully go away in most individuals

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) It's not uncommon for children to experience symptoms of eczema, a skin condition also called atopic dermatitis. It is less understood how long those symptoms last for individuals.

A recent study found that children with eczema were likely to have the symptoms well into their teen and young adult years.

The researchers concluded that eczema is "probably a life-long illness."

Eczema is an autoimmune condition that causes dry, irritated or inflamed skin. It is an allergic condition, and those who have it may be more likely to have other allergic conditions such as hay fever or asthma.

"Discuss eczema treatment options with a dermatologist."

This study, led by Jacob Margolis, MD, PhD, of the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, looked at the long-term course of eczema in children.

The researchers followed 7,157 children and teens, aged 2 to 18, every six months for several years.

All of the participants had eczema when they were in enrolled in the study group, called Pediatric Eczema Elective Registry (PEER). Most had developed it by age 2, with the average age being about 20 months.

The follow-up time included tracking 4,248 children for at least two years and 2,416 children for at least five years.

The researchers found that more than 80 percent of the participants still had eczema symptoms or were treating their eczema with medication at all ages followed.

There did appear to be progress with less eczema as the participants got older, however.

By the time the participants were 20 years old, about half of them had experienced at least one six-month period during which they did not have symptoms or need to treat their eczema.

"However, this finding did not persist and should not be confused with a 'permanent' remission in that at most ages the majority of enrollees had symptoms and were using medications," the researchers noted.

The researchers also looked for characteristics among the children that appeared linked to more persistent eczema.

Children with a history of other hereditary allergic illnesses and those in homes with less than $50,000 household income were more likely to have eczema that didn't go away.

The researchers also looked at a long list of environmental factors the children might be exposed to, ranging from pets, fabrics, weather and skin care products to cigarettes, soaps, detergents, fumes and dust.

Nearly all of these environmental exposures were linked to more persistent cases of eczema.

This study was published April 2 in the journal JAMA Dermatology. The research was funded by the National Institute of Arthritis Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

The PEER study group was funded by a grant from Valeant Pharmaceuticals, which makes an eczema treatment medication called pimecrolimus (Elidel).

Review Date: 
April 2, 2014
Last Updated:
April 3, 2014