Eczema is a condition that makes the skin itchy and red. It lasts over a long period of time which can include flare ups.
Symptoms of eczema are caused by inflammation in the skin. It is not clear what causes this. Things that may play a role include:
Things that may increase the risk of eczema:
- Having asthma or allergies
- Living in city or places with low humidity
- Eczema or allergies in family members
- Regular contact with things that irritate the skin such as:
- Perfumes in soaps
- Dust mites (common)
- Rubber gloves for people sensitive to latex
- Stress—scratching can be a habit with stress
- Area is washed often
- Scratching or rubbing of skin
- Medicine that lowers the immune system
- Excess weight or obesity
Eczema may cause some of the following:
- Dry, itchy skin (very common)
- Red rashes on the cheeks, arms, and legs
- Red, scaly skin
- Thick, leathery skin
- Small, raised bumps on the skin
- Crusting, oozing, or cracking of the skin
The doctor will ask about symptoms and health past. A physical exam will be done. The diagnosis is often made based on how the skin looks. Tests may be done to rule out other problems or to look for an infection.
Treatment can help to ease itching and redness. It may also reduce the number of flare ups. The medical team can also help to find what may be causing more irritation.
Scratching the skin can make symptoms worse and damage skin. Damaged skin will increase the risk of infection. Treatment can help to ease itchiness and protect the skin. Treatment steps may include:
Proper skin care may decrease injury to the area and allow the skin to heal. Steps to ease stress on skin include:
- Avoid hot or long baths or showers.
- Use mild, unscented bar soap or non-soap cleanser.
- Do not scrub area. Air-dry or gently pat is better to dry skin.
- Gentle moisturizers should be used after a shower when skin is still damp.
- Treat skin infections right away.
Medicine may be needed to ease symptoms. Examples include:
- Prescription creams and ointments. They can ease flare up and irritation of skin.
- Prescription or over-the-counter antihistamines to help prevent itching.
- Antibiotics to treat infection. It may be given as a cream or pill.
- Pills to reduce inflammation of the skin.
- Monoclonal antibody shots to reduce inflammation.
Light therapy may be tried if other care is not helpful. This may include:
- Treatment with ultraviolet light
- Psoralen, a medicine used to make skin more sensitive to light therapy
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology https://www.aaaai.org
National Eczema Association https://nationaleczema.org
Canadian Dermatology Association https://www.dermatology.ca
Health Canada https://www.canada.ca
Atopic dermatitis. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/eczema/atopic-dermatitis. Accessed October 30, 2019.
Atopic dermatitis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/atopic-dermatitis/ . Updated June 20, 2019. Accessed October 30, 2019.
Atopic dermatitis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/atopic-dermatitis. Updated July 2016. Accessed October 30, 2019.
Eczema and atopic dermatitis. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/condition/eczema-and-atopic-dermatitis. Updated June 2017. Accessed October 30, 2019.
6/4/2010 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115212/Atopic-dermatitis : Alexander DD, Cabana MD. Partially hydrolyzed 100% whey protein infant formula and reduced risk of atopic dermatitis: a meta-analysis. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2010;50(4):422-430.
1/4/2016 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115212/Atopic-dermatitis : Zhang A, Silverberg JI. Association of atopic dermatitis with being overweight and obese: a systematic review and metaanalysis. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2015;72(4):606-618.
7/14/2017 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115212/Atopic-dermatitis : Blauvelt A, deBruin-Weller M, et al. Long-term management of moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis with dupilumab and cocomitant topical corticosteroids (LIBERTY AND CHRONOS): a 1-year, randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled, phase 3 trial. Lancet. 2017;389(10086):2287-2303.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Monica Zangwill, MD, MPH
- Review Date: 10/2019
- Update Date: 10/30/2019