Today I’m going to explain what eczema is and in a subsequent episode we’ll talk about how to treat eczema. The word eczema is a very, very confusing term and the reason that it is, is because on the one hand it refers to a very specific disease and on the other hand so many people use the word eczema improperly in referring to diseases and conditions that are either persistent or recurrent. Let’s talk about the real word eczema. Eczema refers to a disease called atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis is a rash that tends to be hereditary and runs in families, it usually starts in infancy or early childhood and it’s very often associated with two other diseases, with allergic rhinitis which is called hay fever and also with asthma and that association may not be in the same patient it may just be that all three, or some of those, run in the same family. Atopic dermatitis, again, usually starts in infancy and when it does, in an infant it’s usually on an extensive surface like on the back of the arm or the front of the leg or thigh and sometimes on the side of the neck. By early childhood it’s changed by flexer surfaces, the front of the elbow, behind the knee and again, still on the sides of the neck. When you get the rash it’s usually very, very itchy so it causes a lot of scratching and the skin turns red and there are a lot of bumps but that’s the technical and proper term for the word eczema. But so many other people refer to so many other rashes that again are recurrent or persistent, with the word eczema and what they do is they take technical names and just add the word eczema after it. So dandruff is really called, seborrheic dermatitis but some people call that rash when it’s on your face seborrheic eczema. There’s a form of a rash that you get when there’s just no oil in your skin, that’s called asteatotic dermatitis. Asteatosis means a lack of oil, so asteatotic dermatitis is from no oil and you get a rash. But a lot of people call that asteatotic eczema. When people get chronic rashes on their hand, instead of calling it hand dermatitis, they call it hand eczema. So, this is why, the word eczema, when used inappropriately creates confusion. But, when a dermatologist says the word eczema, he’s talking about atopic dermatitis, he’s speaking about that hereditary skin condition started in early childhood often associated with asthma or hay fever, he’s not talking about those other broad categories. In the next episode, we’ll talk about how do you treat real atopic dermatitis.