Atopic dermatitis, or eczema, is a skin condition that causes symptoms like dry, scaly, reddish or itchy skin, as well as scaly patches that may weep or crust over, especially if scratched. Scratching can also cause the skin in the affected area to bleed and crack, increasing the risk of infection. The cause of eczema is not known, but a faulty or overactive immune system reaction is thought to play a major role. The condition occurs most commonly among children and often persists throughout adulthood. It is not contagious.
Flare-ups can occur for lots of reasons, including:
significant temperature changes
irritants like soaps, detergents, household cleaners and toiletries
As with other skin conditions, eczema diagnosis begins with a visual exam of the skin and a discussion of your symptoms. You may also be asked whether you have allergies or asthma since eczema is more common among people with these issues. In most cases, eczema can be easily diagnosed from a physical exam of your skin.
Most cases of eczema can be managed with changes to personal habits, including using mild cleansers and moisturizers to keep skin from overdrying. Avoiding harsh cleansers and detergents is also important. If you take baths, you might want to try switching to showers, keeping the water temperature cool to avoid drying out your skin. For persistent symptoms, over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines and corticosteroid creams may help reduce itching. In some cases, medications may be used to help reduce the immune system reaction, or stronger moisturizers or UV therapy may be prescribed to reduce scaling and inflammation.