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Eczema incidence rises 40% in five years

By Lilian Anekwe

Evidence from primary care research suggests the incidence of eczema has risen dramatically, after a study found more than a 40% increase in incidence in four years.

A study of GP records of over nine million patients held in the QRESEARCH database found the incidence of eczema rose from 9.58 per 1,000 person-years in 2000 to 13.58 per 1,000 person-years in 2005 – and increase of 42%.

By 2005, eczema affected an estimated 5.7 million patients were affected by eczema, who consulted their GP an average of four times a year.

A comparable rise was also found in the number of prescriptions issued by GPs for eczema, which rose by 57% over the five years.

The researchers suggested the rise could be due to changes in environmental factors, which are leaving people more susceptible to allergic disease, particularly in those who are genetically susceptible.

Researcher Professor Aziz Sheikh, chair of the allergy and respiratory research group at the University of Edinburgh, said the study results were striking.

He added: ‘Eczema is an incredibly common disorder. We think eczema is a herald condition for individuals to go on to develop other allergic conditions, such as asthma and allergic rhinitis.'

The study is published in the March issue of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.

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