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Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic inflammation of the outer layers of the skin. This condition is not contagious.

It is sometimes referred to as the itch that rashes



The exact cause of eczema is unknown. Factors that may contribute to eczema include:


Risk Factors  

Factors that increase your chance of eczema:

  • Age: 5 years old or younger—eczema becomes less common after the ages of 5-10
  • Asthma or hay fever
  • Urban areas or places with low humidity
  • Relatives who have eczema or allergic disorders
  • Exposure to certain fabrics, perfumes in soaps, dust mites (common), or foods
  • Stress, especially if it leads to scratching
  • Frequent washing of affected areas
  • Use of rubber gloves in persons sensitive to latex
  • Scratching or rubbing of skin
  • Race: Black or Asian
  • Immunosuppressant medications


The symptoms vary from person to person. Scratching and rubbing can cause or worsen some of the symptoms. Symptoms include:

  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Cracks behind the ears or in other skin creases
  • 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
  • Symptoms that worsen in the winter when inside air is dry due to central heating


Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The diagnosis is made by the appearance and location of the rash.You may be referred to specialist. A dermatologist focuses on skin disorders. An allergist focuses on allergies.



The main goals of eczema treatments are to:

  • Heal the skin and keep it healthy
  • Stop scratching or rubbing
  • Avoid skin infection
  • Prevent flare-ups
  • Recognize and avoid triggers, if there are any

Treatment options may vary. Your doctor may recommend more than one depending on your condition. They include:

Skin Care  

  • Avoid hot or long baths or showers. Keep them less than 15 minutes.
  • Use mild, unscented bar soap or nonsoap cleanser. Use it sparingly.
  • Air-dry or gently pat dry after bathing. Apply gentle moisturizer right after.
  • Treat skin infections right away.


  • Prescription creams and ointments containing cortisone, tacrolimus, or pimecrolimus
  • Oral medications, such as prednisone or cyclosporine—For severe cases
  • Antibiotics applied directly to the skin or taken by mouth—Only for treating infections
  • Prescription or over-the-counter antihistamines to help prevent itching


  • Treatment with ultraviolet A light and 5-methoxypsoralen (PUVA) by a doctor
  • Photopheresis—For severe cases


It is difficult to prevent eczema. This is