Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is one of the most common skin diseases in the UK. It is estimated that 1 in 5 children and 1 in 10 adults in the UK suffer from eczema, making it one of the most prevalent skin conditions experienced across all age groups.
What’s more, eczema is considered the leading contributor to skin-related disability, imposing the highest disease burden as measured by disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs). People with severe eczema are more likely than the general population to develop depression.
At Click2Pharmacy, open and informed discussions about health issues are a priority, so we conducted an analysis of the latest United Kingdom prevalence statistics and prescribing trends for eczema. Our findings are from multiple authoritative sources like OpenPrescribing and studies by the British Society for Allergy & Clinical Immunology.
We detail all our eczema statistics findings in detail below, but if you’re looking for a summary, here’s what we learned:
- There has been an increased prevalence of eczema in the last 10 years.
- Eczema is more prevalent in early childhood (ages 1-7) and age 47 and over.
- There is a correlation between gender and eczema, with men being impacted more earlier on in life and women suffering more later in life.
- Living in an urban area will impact the persistence of atopic dermatitis.
- Emollients are the most used treatment for eczema in the UK.
History of Eczema in the UK
The burden of atopic dermatitis increased rapidly between 2010 and 2014 when it levelled and has slowly decreased since 2015.
Over the study period (2009-2018), yearly visits to primary care for eczema went up. They increased from about 88 visits per 100 person-years in 2009 to about 112 visits per 100 person-years in 2018. This means more people saw their GP or pharmacist for eczema each year from 2009 to 2018.
This increase could be due to:
- An increase in the prevalence of allergies/allergic diseases.
- An increase in the public’s awareness of eczema.
Prevalence of Eczema
British children suffering from eczema have trebled in the last 30 years.
Eczema is most prevalent in childhood, with it being most common in male infants under one year old. From age 2, girls are more likely to get eczema than boys. This trend decreases until age 7, and from 7 to 18, eczema rates remain steady.
Atopic Eczema often occurs in infants and toddlers, and about 40% of them have food allergies, with eggs, cow’s milk, soy, and wheat accounting for about 90% of allergenic foods.
In adults, eczema levels stay consistent from ages 18 to 49. After 49, there’s an increase in eczema cases for both men and women. Starting at age 70, eczema becomes more common in men than women.
In children, eczema affects males slightly more, but in adults, active eczema is more prevalent in females.
Active atopic dermatitis affected 2.4% of the adult UK population between 2015 and 2019, with females (58.2%) and those 82 years and older (4.4%-4.9%) more likely to be diagnosed, according to a study published in Skin Health and Disease.
In this study from 2020, it can be seen that age trends follow the same patterns between the sexes, but that eczema is more prevalent at different ages.
Eczema rates in men exceed women considerably at 2-7 years old and 70+ years old.
However, 10-70-year-old women are much more likely to suffer with eczema.
This could be due to hormonal imbalances in women from puberty to the menopause. The prevalence of eczema has been linked to hormonal changes, as about 47% of women who have eczema report their symptoms getting worse during the week before they have their periods.
In all age groups, there are more cases of eczema in urban areas than in rural areas. The highest prevalence rates for active eczema are in London, the North-West, and the West Midlands.
Environmental factors that raise the risk of eczema are still not completely clear. However, exposure to ultraviolet rays, colder air, and more use of indoor heating have been connected to triggering eczema.
In children and adults, active eczema is more prevalent in those of Asian, black, and mixed ethnicity than in those of white ethnic background.
People of Asian background have more eczema cases than white people during their entire lives. Those who are black and people with mixed ethnic backgrounds also have more eczema than white people, especially until age 50.
Treatments for Eczema
In 2023, OpenPrescribing reported the cost of preparations for eczema and psoriasis for NHS England was over £64,000,000.
In the UK, managing eczema mostly happens in primary care. 96% of children with eczema saw their GP or pharmacist in the preceding year.
Standard eczema care usually involves using moisturisers or ’emollients’, the most popular treatment in the UK.
In 2023, 8,689,094 emollients were prescribed for skin conditions by the NHS. If needed, doctors often prescribe topical corticosteroids (TCS) like Elocon Scalp Lotion or Betamethasone 0.1 Cream, which is the second most used prescription eczema medication in the UK. Other creams like topical calcineurin inhibitors (TCI) for ongoing care and flare-ups are used for skin infection treatments.
Emollients are more likely to be prescribed in childhood eczema flare-ups, with those 17 and under more likely to be prescribed emollients.
Topical corticosteroids (TCS) are more likely to be prescribed for those aged 18 and over. This could be due to young children and the elderly being more susceptible to side effects, which have been found to decrease growth in children.
What is the most used eczema treatment in the UK?
We wanted to find out which eczema treatment is the most popular in the UK: to do this, we used Open Prescribing to analyse the prescription rates.
We analysed three of the most popular treatments for eczema in the UK in 2023:
- “Betamethasone Valerate“, which is found in Betnovate products.
- “Fusidic Acid“, which can be found in Fucibet/Fucidin cream
- “Diphenhydramine Hydrochloride” also known as antihistamines
Betamethasone valerate is one of the most popular eczema treatments in the UK, amassing 2,835,584 prescriptions in 2023. Betamethasone is a common ingredient in eczema treatment products like creams, lotions, ointments and scalp solutions.
Fusidic acid is the second most common (924,270 prescriptions in 2023). Fusidic acid primarily treats eczema and dermatitis, but it also treats other skin conditions where there is inflammation or infection.
Diphenhydramine hydrochloride is the third most popular option in this list. Antihistamines are a popular treatment for inflammation. However, they are used to treat multiple allergies.
When considering these treatments for eczema, prescribing data is not distinguished between providing treatment for eczema or other skin conditions, so this must be considered when looking at this data.
This data, however, does not consider over-the-counter (OTC) eczema treatments, which do not require a prescription. Low-dose eczema treatments are available OTC in most pharmacies and are accessible for treating low-intensity eczema.
More facts & figures about eczema
- The term eczema was coined in 1817, and the word “eczema” comes from the Greek for “boiling over”.
- Studies suggest that eczema sufferers have slightly higher rates of wrist, hip, pelvis, and spine fractures as compared with people who don’t have eczema. Rates of hip fractures are 50% higher among people with severe eczema.
- Eczema is not contagious and cannot be passed on from one person to another.