Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic inflammation of the outer layers of the skin.
The exact cause of eczema is not known. Factors that may contribute to eczema include:
Eczema is more common in people of African or Asian descent.
Factors that increase your chance of eczema include:
The symptoms vary from person to person. Scratching and rubbing can cause or worsen some of the symptoms. Symptoms include:
You will be asked 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:
Treatment options may vary. Your doctor may recommend more than one depending on your condition. They include:
Proper skin care may allow the skin to heal. Treatment may include the following:
In some cases, medication may also be needed and may include:
If skin care and medications are not effective, light therapy may be used. This may include:
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
National Eczema Society
Canadian Dermatology Association
Atopic dermatitis. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/eczema/atopic-dermatitis. Accessed January 22, 2015.
Atopic dermatitis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Atopic_Dermatitis. Updated May 2013. Accessed January 22, 2015.
Brehler R, Hildebrand A, Luger T. Recent developments in treatment of atopic eczema. J Am Acad Dermatol. 1997;36(6 Pt 1):983-994.
Mohla G, Horvath N, Stevens S. Quality of life improvement in a patient with severe atopic dermatitis treated with photopheresis. J Am Acad Dermatol. 1999;40(5 Pt 1):780-782.
Saarinen UM, Kajosaari M. Breastfeeding as prophylaxis against atopic disease: prospective follow-up study until 17 years old. Lancet. 1995;346:1065-1069.
Skin allergy. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology website. Available at: http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/allergies/Skin-Allergy.aspx. Accessed January 22, 2015.
7/6/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115212/Atopic-dermatitis: Langan SM, Flohr C, Williams HC. The role of furry pets in eczema: a systematic review. Arch Dermatol. 2007;143:1570-1577.
6/4/2010 DynaMed Plus 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 Plus 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.
Last reviewed March 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board James Cornell, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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