Derm Q&A: Let's Talk Eczema with Dr. Thivi Maruthappu

Let's Talk Eczema with Dr. Thivi Maruthappu

Dr. Thivi Maruthappu is a Consultant Dermatologist in London with over a decade of experience in Dermatology. She has completed both a PhD and fellowship in Medical Dermatology. She is the recipient of numerous academic awards and prizes and has published widely in the scientific literature. Additionally, she has completed a certificate in nutrition science and is passionate about the holistic management of skin conditions. She is regularly featured in the media and in magazines such as Vogue, Red and The Sunday Times, Style. She sits on numerous Advisory boards for world-leading pharmaceutical companies and beauty brands.

What is eczema?

Eczema is a skin condition, which can lead to dry, itchy, and scaly skin. It’s caused by, in many cases, a genetic concern with regards to a gene called filaggrin. What this gene does, is it’s important for protecting our skin barrier and making sure that our skin barrier works effectively. When this gene isn’t working quite as well as it should do, the skin barrier becomes a little bit more open, which can lead to moisture being lost from the skin surface, which is why one of the commonest complaints in people with eczema is that their skin feels really dry and uncomfortable.

What are the causes?

We know now that for many individuals the cause of eczema is an inherited mutation in a gene called filaggrin. Filaggrin is a very important gene when it comes to how our skin barrier works and we need our skin barrier to work effectively to keep the environmental factors out. Often in patients who have eczema, the skin barrier doesn’t work as quite as well as it should do -it’s not quite as tight and well-formed. What that means is that triggers from the environment can irritate the skin and cause itching, flaking, and dryness. And when your barrier doesn’t work as well, we can lose moisture from the skin, which is why the most common symptom that people with eczema have is really dry, uncomfortable skin.

Who can get eczema?

Absolutely anybody can get eczema. Eczema happens in every skin type and at every age. It tends to be more common in children. In the UK, up to a third of children can be affected with eczema, and the incident appears to be less as we go through life.

What are the symptoms and what can trigger them?

Eczema can present as itchy patches, particularly in the crease of your elbow, on the back of your knees, on the face as well. But it really can affect any area of the body. People can develop red areas of skin, that are incredibly itchy and can become sore and thickened after long periods of time as well.

Is eczema treatable?

Absolutely, we have so many effective treatments for eczema. It’s really important that if you have eczema and it's affecting you and bothering you, please see your healthcare provider. We have so many different treatment options so you certainly don’t need to suffer in silence.

Can you grow out of eczema?

Yes, many people do grow out of eczema. Often times, it settles during adolescence and adults may just be left with a little bit of eczema here and there, even though they had quite severe childhood eczema. But for some people, eczema can persist or even worsen into adulthood.

Where should I go to get help with eczema?

There’s excellent information on eczema on Eczema Support, the website from the British Skin Foundation, but there are also lots of eczema resources, eczema charities who have excellent information online. But if you are struggling with eczema, or a member of your family is, make sure that you see your healthcare provider and are referred up to dermatology, if you need so.

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