Researchers at Centre of Evidence-Based Dermatology at The University of Nottingham has found that eczema, a form of dermatitis or inflammation of the upper layers of the skin, is still on the rise in developing countries.
The research, conducted by a team of allergy experts across the world, tracking the number of cases of childhood eczema across the globe has revealed big changes in the prevalence of the condition over the last five to ten years and suggests that environmental factors might be responsible for the condition.
The study has shown a levelling off in the number of cases of eczema in children aged between 13 to 14 years and a decrease in some countries like the UK and New Zealand where childhood eczema was once highly prevalent.
Their study suggests that environmental factors are key factor for eczema expression because it is highly unlikely that genetic factors would change in such a short time.
Hywel Williams, Professor of Dermato-Epidemiology in the Centre of Evidence-Based Dermatology at The University of Nottingham and lead author of the study, said that eczema need to be tackled at a public health level in many countries.
The researchers analysed over 300,000 children aged 13 to 14 years from 105 centres in 55 countries and nearly 190,000 children aged six to seven years from 64 centres in 35 countries.
The largest decreases in kids aged between 13 to 14 years were seen in developed countries in northwest Europe, such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden, Germany and also New Zealand.
Most of the biggest increases were seen in developing countries such as Mexico, Chile, Kenya and Algeria and in seven countries in Southeast Asia.
However, in six to seven year olds most countries showed significant increases over the five to ten year period.
"This is the first time we have been able to have a glimpse at what has been happening to eczema symptoms across the world using standardised methods. The results suggest that environmental factors are key to the expression of eczema if only we could identify those factors so that we could prevent eczema in those countries experiencing significant increases," Professor Williams said.
The study is published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.