What Is Eczema?
Eczema is a term for a group of conditions that make your skin inflamed or irritated. The most common type is atopic dermatitis or atopic eczema. “Atopic” refers to a person’s tendency to get allergic conditions such as asthma and hay fever.
Eczema affects about 10% to 20% of infants and about 3% of adults and children in the U.S. Most children outgrow it by their 10th birthday. Some people continue to have symptoms on and off for life.
There’s no cure, but most people can manage their symptoms by getting treatment and by avoiding irritants. Eczema isn’t contagious, so you can’t spread it to another person.
Eczema looks different for everyone. And your flare-ups won’t always happen in the same area.
No matter which part of your skin is affected, eczema is almost always itchy. The itching sometimes starts before the rash.
Symptoms in infants
In infants, the itchy rash can lead to an oozing, crusting condition, mainly on the face and scalp. It can also happen on their arms, legs, back, and chest.
Symptoms in children
Children and teens usually have a rash in the bends of their elbows, behind their knees, on their neck, or on their wrists or ankles. The rash turns scaly and dry.
Symptoms in adults
The rash usually happens on your face, the backs of your knees, wrists, hands, or feet.
Your skin will probably be very dry, thick, or scaly. In fair-skinned people, these areas may start out reddish and then turn brown. Among darker-skinned people, eczema can affect skin pigments, making the affected area lighter or darker.
Types of Eczema
Eczema includes conditions such as:
- Atopic dermatitis. This is what people are usually talking about when they say “eczema.”
- Contact dermatitis. Nearly everyone gets this at some point in their lives. It happens when your skin comes into contact with something that causes a rash.
- Dyshidrotic eczema. This happens when your skin doesn’t protect itself the way it should.
- Nummular eczema. People who have this type get round sores, often after a skin injury like a burn or insect bite.
- Seborrheic dermatitis. This happens in areas of your body with lots of oil glands. When it’s on your scalp, it’s called dandruff.
- Stasis dermatitis. This type happens in people who have poor blood flow, usually in the lower legs.