Eczema is a term for several different types of skin swelling. Eczema is also called dermatitis. Most types cause dry, itchy skin and rashes on the face, inside the elbows and behind the knees, and on the hands and feet. Scratching the skin can cause it to turn red, and to swell and itch even more.
Eczema is not contagious. The cause of eczema is unknown. It is likely caused by both genetic and environmental factors. Eczema may get better or worse over time, but it is often a long-lasting disease. People who have it may also develop hay fever and asthma.
The most common type of eczema is atopic dermatitis. It is most common in babies and children, but adults can have it too. As children who have atopic dermatitis grow older, this problem may get better or go away. But sometimes the skin may stay dry and get irritated easily.
Treatments may include medicines, skin creams, light therapy, and good skin care. You can prevent some types of eczema by avoiding:
- Things that irritate your skin, such as certain soaps, fabrics, and lotions
- Things you are allergic to, such as food, pollen, and animals
NIH: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
Treatments and Therapies
- Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis) Treatment (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)
- Atopic dermatitis: MedlinePlus Genetics (National Library of Medicine)
Health Check Tools
- Skin Allergy Quiz (American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Immunological Pathomechanisms of Spongiotic Dermatitis in Skin Lesions of Atopic Dermatitis.
- Article: Effects of Residential Environment and Lifestyle on Atopic Eczema Among Preschool...
- Article: Long-Term Ambient Air Pollution and Childhood Eczema in the United States.
- Eczema -- see more articles
Find an Expert
- American Academy of Dermatology
- Find a Dermatologist (American Academy of Dermatology)
- Find an Allergist/Immunologist (American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology)
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases Also in Spanish
- Atopic dermatitis - children - homecare (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Atopic dermatitis -- self-care (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Atopic eczema (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Dyshidrotic eczema (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Nummular eczema (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Seborrheic dermatitis (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish