The number of people suffering from eczema could have soared because of an increased use of soaps and detergents, research suggests.
The number of eczema cases in England rose by more than 40% between 2001 and 2005, taking the total to 5.8 million people.
Researchers, led by Professor Aziz Sheikh at the University of Edinburgh, said that environmental factors like an increase in bathing and use of different soaps could have contributed to the rise.
The study said better awareness and diagnosis were also reasons for known cases rising, and predicted numbers would continue to increase.
The report said: ‘Eczema is now one of the most chronic conditions to effect the English population.’
By 2005, almost one in nine people had at some point in their lives been affected by eczema, the study, published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, showed.
Prescriptions increased by 57% over the study period to an estimated 13.7 million by 2005.
Eczema is also thought to be a trigger for other allergic conditions, the experts said.