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Eczema Tied to Early Exposure to Antibiotics

Update Date: Jun 20, 2013 02:13 PM EDT

Eczema is a type of skin disease that is characterized by itchy skin and can range from severe to mild. There are currently no known cures for eczema, but several topical medications can provide relief. Although research has tied eczema to allergies and an over reactive immune response, the exact causes of this type of dermatitis remain unknown. In a new study, researchers from the King's College London Researchers found a link between antibiotics exposure and eczema risk.

The research team, which also included scientists from King's, Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, the University of Nottingham and the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, evaluated 20 previous studies that found a relationship between antibiotic exposure during the age of one and eczema. Based from these studies and the statistics they provided, the research team concluded that the use of antibiotics during early childhood increased the risk for eczema by 40 percent. The researchers also found that for every additional course of antibiotics used, it increased the risk of developing eczema by seven percent. Prenatal use was not measured in this study.

The researchers theorized that antibiotic exposure could be tied to eczema because antibiotics have the potential to change gut microflora. When gut microflora is altered, it can affect how the immune system develops and matures. The antibiotics then consequently could trigger the development of allergies.

Although the researchers did not find how antibiotics exposure led to eczema, they believe that their findings could provide a better understanding of certain risk factors involved with antibiotic use. The researchers stressed that people should not stop administering antibiotics, especially if the treatment is highly recommended by primary care physicians and pediatricians.

"A better understanding of the complex relationship between antibiotic use and allergic disease is a priority for clinicians and health policymakers alike, as determination of a true link between antibiotic use and eczema would have far-reaching clinical and public health implications," Dr. Carsten Flohr, the senior author of this study said reported by Medical Xpress.

According to Nina Goad, a member of the British Association of Dermatologists, eczema affects one in five British children and has been on the rise in the past decade. Since researchers have not pinpointed why eczema seems to be afflicting more people, studies identifying risk factors could help lower the rates significantly.

The study was published in the British Journal of Dermatology

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