What is eczema?

Eczema (also known as dermatitis) is a non-contagious, inflammatory dry skin condition that can affect people from early infancy to old age. The most common form, atopic eczema, affects 1 in 5 children and 1 in 10 adults in the UK.

The skin is often unbearably itchy – the urge to scratch can be irresistible – and during a flare-up it can also be red, cracked, sore and raw. Alongside the painful physical symptoms, many children and adults experience related sleeplessness, anxiety, depression and other mental health problems.


Keeping skin moisturised using emollients (medical moisturisers) is key to managing all types of eczema. Topical steroids are the first-line treatment to bring flare-ups under control, and other treatments are available to help manage more severe symptoms.


Many things in our environment can initiate an eczema flare-up. Here we describe some of the more common triggers.

Booklets / Factsheets

National Eczema Society produces a wide range of evidence-based factsheets and booklets about eczema and treatments. These are available to read and download on our website.