Background: The prevalence of eczema, particularly in younger children, increased substantially over the second half of the 20th century. Analysis of primary healthcare data-sets offers the possibility to advance understanding about the changing epidemiology of eczema.
Aim: To investigate recent trends in the recorded incidence, lifetime prevalence, prescribing and consulting behaviour of patients with eczema in England.
Methods: QRESEARCH is one of the world's largest national aggregated health databases containing the records of over nine million patients. We extracted data on all patients with a recorded diagnosis of eczema and calculated annual age-sex standardized incidence and lifetime period prevalence rates for each year from 2001-2005. We also analysed the consulting behaviour of these patients when compared with the rest of the QRESEARCH database population. The number of eczema prescriptions issued to people in England was also estimated.
Results: The age-sex standardized incidence of eczema was 9.58 per 1000 person-years in 2001 and increased to 13.58 per 1000 patients in 2005 (p<0.001). By 2005, eczema affected an estimated 5,773,700 (95% confidence intervals [CI] 5,754,100-5,793,400) individuals in England, who, on average, consulted a general practitioner 4.02 (95% CI 4.01-4.03) times a year. During the study period, the number of eczema related prescriptions increased by 56.6% (95% CI 56.6-56.7), so by 2005 an estimated 13,690,300 (95% CI 13,643,200-13,737,600) prescriptions were issued.
Conclusions: Recorded incidence and lifetime prevalence of eczema in England continue to increase. Similar increases have also been observed in the estimated number of eczema prescriptions issued to the English population.