Eczema is a chronic skin condition characterized by itchy, dry, and or discolored skin, and a lot of people have it. Atopic dermatitis is the most common type of eczema, and the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably.
Typically, it begins during infancy or childhood, but a person can develop it at any time in life. For some people, symptoms resolve before adulthood. For others, symptoms continue to come and go. When they occur, the symptoms are called “flares.”
An eczema flare can be uncomfortable. People with eczema are more likely to get skin infections and have trouble sleeping. In addition, depression and anxiety are more common in people with this condition, especially those with more severe forms of this common skin disorder.
It’s estimated that about 10 percent of the adult population in the United States has eczema. Unfortunately, eczema is another example of disparities in healthcare. African American and Asian American children are more likely to develop more severe forms of eczema. Unfortunately, this may be due to delayed diagnosis because eczema can sometimes be missed in people with darker skin.
Although there is no cure for eczema, there are, thankfully, recommendations for helping to reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms. The National Institutes of Health in the United States is also funding basic research into the condition.
Over the last decade, researchers — including scientists at 23andMe — have discovered some of the underlying genetics of the condition. We know that many of those with eczema also have food allergies, asthma, or hay fever, for example. These are all allergic conditions, and they also share genetic associations. But they each impact different parts of the body. By learning more about the shared genetics of these conditions, scientists are learning more about potential ways to treat them.
Beyond reading about 23andMe’s research on eczema, (here are some other posts about the research), we also offer customers an opportunity to go deeper and learn about their chances of developing eczema.
This week 23andMe released a new Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis) report powered by 23andMe research as part of our 23andMe+ Membership. This is one of more than 10 reports and features added annually and available to our 23andMe+ members.‡
The eczema report is powered by a polygenic score. The score is calculated using more than 2,100 genetic variants and a customer’s ethnicity and sex to estimate the likelihood of having eczema. To calculate this estimate, we use aggregated data from consented 23andMe research participants. The report does not diagnose eczema. If you are concerned about your likelihood of developing eczema, consult with a healthcare professional.
‡10+ reports and features will be added annually from January to December.