Soothing Eczema

JHAH Well-Being: How to identify, diagnose, and treat eczema

Though there are no tests to identify the condition, itchy and swollen skin are among the symptoms.

JHAH Well-Being: How to identify, diagnose, and treat eczema

Eczema is a term for several different types of skin swelling. It is not dangerous, but most types cause red, swollen, and itchy skin. Factors that can cause eczema include other diseases, irritating substances, allergies, and your genetic makeup. Eczema is not contagious.

The most common type of eczema is atopic dermatitis (AD). It is an allergic condition that makes your skin dry and itchy. “Atopic” refers to a tendency to develop allergy conditions. “Dermatitis” means inflammation of the skin.

Eczema is a chronic disease. You can prevent some types of eczema by avoiding irritants, stress, and the things you are allergic to. 


Some skin irritants can make AD worse. These include: household chemicals, rough clothing, and soap. Allergy triggers can also make AD worse. Some examples of allergy triggers are dust mites and certain foods.

People who live in cities and dry climates may be more likely to get AD. It is most common in babies and children, although sometimes children will outgrow the condition. 



Eczema may affect any area of your skin. Where it appears depends on the type of eczema you have. Eczema tends to affect the: Back of the knees, face, feet, hands, inside of the elbows, and wrists.

Eczema almost always causes itchy skin in the affected area. It also causes a rash. The itching may start before the rash appears. Areas of skin affected by eczema may appear red and swollen, scaly, thickened, and/or very dry. Eczema may also cause the affected skin to have small, raised bumps. 

The symptoms of eczema tend to “flare” up every so often and then go away. 


The exact cause of eczema is unknown, but could be genetic. It may be caused by the immune system’s response to an irritant. It is this overactive response that causes the symptoms of eczema.

Diagnosis and treatment

Your health care provider will first ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be performed.

There are no tests that can diagnose eczema. Your health care provider can often diagnose eczema by asking about your symptoms and looking at the affected skin. You may be tested for allergies to find possible triggers or irritants that may make your eczema worse.

Treatment for eczema helps relieve symptoms, including itching. Your health care provider can provide you with the appropriate type of treatment based on your case. Treatment may also involve avoiding triggers and irritants that can cause flare-ups. 


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