Eczema is a common skin condition characterised by itchy, red and swollen skin.
It affects one in 12 adults and one in five children in the UK – but is commonly thought to just target the latter.
However, experts believe the number of adult sufferers are undiagnosed, and they could be missing out on improvements in treatment.
In a discussion at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology’s (ACAAI) annual meeting, researchers said that many adults diagnosed with eczema first developed the condition in childhood and have carried it through life.
“Many adults don’t seek out medical care, preferring to self-treat instead, either with home remedies or over-the-counter drugs,” said Luz Fonacier, an allergist and ACAAI board member.
“Often, they aren’t aware they have eczema, and they also don’t know treatments have changed a lot in the last few years.
“There are new drugs and topical medications that can make a huge difference in their quality of life.”
Indeed, two new medications have recently been approved for the condition.
One is crisaborole, an ointment that reduces itching, redness and swelling of the skin.
It is the first anti-inflammatory medication to be approved for the treatment of mild to moderate eczema in more than 15 years.
Another, dupilumab, is a biologic therapy given by injection for patients 18 years or older with moderate to severe eczema who haven’t responded to, or can’t use, topical medications.
The new treatments are particularly important since, in addition to itching and discomfort, people with eczema can experience problems with sleep and emotional distress.
“The takeaway message is that there are effective medications available that help relieve eczema symptoms and now can also target the underlying cause,” said Dr Mark Boguniewicz, an allergist and ACAAI board member.
“People with eczema have been frustrated by the limitations of existing treatments.
“We’re very excited by the new medications which were developed based on better understanding of atopic dermatitis. We expect additional therapies to be approved soon.
“An allergist has the right training and expertise to diagnose your eczema, and to help you find relief with the right treatments.”