By Liam Davenport
Eczema is particularly common in women, and is associated with exposure to gas, dust and fumes, and other allergy-based diseases, the results of a Swedish study show.
Eczema is a skin condition characterized by redness of the skin, swelling, blisters, and itching, but few studies have investigated how common it is in adults and its associated risk factors.
Erik Rönmark, from the University of Gothenburg, and colleagues therefore sent a questionnaire in 2008 to 30,000 randomly selected individuals living in West Sweden who were aged 16-75 years. The questionnaire covered eczema, respiratory symptoms and diseases, and possible causes.
In all, just over 18,000 people responded to the questionnaire, of whom 669 had a skin prick test, which assesses reactions to a range of substances that are known to cause allergies, the researchers explain.
They found that eczema was a common disease, with 40% of individuals having had eczema at some point and almost 12% currently suffering from the disease. The condition was significantly more common in women than in men, and in younger than older people.
Eczema was significantly associated with asthma and upper and lower respiratory symptoms, such as nasal congestion and productive cough, and 1% of people who took part in the survey were found to have current asthma, current eczema, and current nose inflammation, known as rhinitis. Individuals with eczema were also more likely to be sensitive to cat, dog, and timothy grass allergens.
Analysis showed that being female increased the risk of eczema by 32-84%, and the risk was further increased by a family history of allergy.
Exposure to gas, dust, or fumes increased the risk of eczema by 27-63%, and not being brought up on a farm increased the risk by 14%. Asthma and inflammation of nasal passages also increased the risk of eczema, by 62-73% and 75-98%, respectively.
The researchers conclude: "Eczema among adults is a common disease with more women than men having and having had eczema."
They add: "The association with urbanization and growing up on a farm needs to be addressed further."
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