Eczema is an inflammation of the skin. It causes areas of itchy, and red skin. Eczema may be ongoing or happen in flare ups when symptoms get worse for a time.
It is not clear what causes the inflammation to happen. Things that may play a role include:
Things that may increase the risk of eczema are:
Eczema may cause some of the following:
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. 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.
Eczema cannot be cured. Treatment can help to ease itching and redness. It may also reduce the number of flare ups.
Treatment to ease symptoms may include:
To ease stress on skin:
Scratching the skin can make symptoms worse. It can also damage the skin and increase the risk of infection. Medicine may help if itching is intense.
Medicine may be needed to ease symptoms. Examples include:
Light therapy may be tried if other care is not helpful. It will include time exposed to sunlight or artificial UV light. A medicine may be used to make skin more sensitive to the light. This light does have risks of premature aging of skin and skin cancer. The doctor will review benefits and possible risks.
There are no steps to prevent eczema. Flare ups may be prevented through steps above.
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
National Eczema Association
Canadian Dermatology Association
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 http://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 http://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 http://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.
Last reviewed October 2019 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Monica Zangwill, MD, MPH
Last Updated: 10/30/2019