Eczema is a condition where your skin becomes dry and itchy too easily, leading to allergies and inflammation. Atopic dermatitis (AD) is the most common type of eczema. “Atopic” means the tendency to develop allergies. “Dermatitis” means inflammation of the skin.
Eczema can look and feel different for everyone. But it usually involves an itchy, scaly, rash that can show up on the face, hands, arms, legs and other parts of the body. It may look ashen white/gray, purple, or dark brown on darker skin tones. It may look red on lighter skin tones. Eczema is linked to dry skin. Scratching eczema can lead to broken skin with oozing and skin infections.
Eczema usually starts in babies. Eczema in babies can often show up on their faces. Children and adults also can have eczema. It can appear different at times or show up on different parts of the body. Eczema is usually linked to a personal or family history of allergies.
There is no single test used to diagnose eczema, but there are a few things doctors use to tell if you have eczema:
Physical exam and review of medical history. Along with examining the rash, your doctor may ask when symptoms appeared and what happened around that time. For example, did you:
Patch test. Certain types of dermatitis might suggest contact allergy. If your doctor suspects contact dermatitis, they may ask you to wear skin patches containing small amounts of possible allergens for two days. If you are allergic to the substance, you should develop a local itchy rash. The doctor will do a follow-up exam to check your reaction, usually two days after you remove the patch.
The doctor may need to see you more than once to make an accurate diagnosis. If you are seeing a general doctor, they may refer you to a specialist like a dermatologist or allergist.
Eczema is different for everyone, but knowing what irritates your eczema will help you manage the symptoms.
Common triggers of eczema include:
If you know what triggers your eczema, avoiding those triggers is important. Other treatments, like the ones below, relieve and prevent symptoms:
Treating eczema can help relieve pain and itching, prevent infections and improve quality of life. Remember to talk to your doctor to help create a treatment and management plan that will work for you.
Medical Review October 2015.