Eczema (dermatitis) is an itchy rash with inflamed skin. Symptoms can range in severity from mild itching and redness to severe blistering and cracked skin. Acute eczema can be red, blistering, or oozing. Chronic eczema can be thickened, rough, and darker than the surrounding skin due to prolonged scratching. Almost always, eczema itches.
Atopic dermatitis, the most common form of eczema, causes dry, sensitive skin. It often appears in infants and toddlers who may “grow out of it” by school age. Contact dermatitis, another common type of eczema, is a localized skin reaction to an allergen or irritant, causing redness, inflammation, and intense itching. Other types of eczema appear on the lower legs (nummular or xerotic eczema), on the palms and soles as small itchy blisters (dyshidrotic eczema), or on the scalp.
Avoid irritants, such as harsh soaps, hot water, detergents, and fragranced products. Moisturize with thick emollient after bathing. Children and young adults often outgrow atopic dermatitis.
Regular treatment can bring relief and may also reduce the severity and duration of eczema. Your dermatologist can prescribe external medications such as cortisone creams, ointments or lotions. Internal medications such as antihistamines may help alleviate the itch. Oral antibiotics may be prescribed if there is also a secondary infection. Patch testing is an option for some cases of contact dermatitis. For severe cases, your dermatologist may recommend ultraviolet light (UVL) treatments.