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Also called atopic dermatitis, eczema is a chronic skin condition caused by inflammation inside the skin. Although the specific cause of eczema hasn’t been determined, research indicates a faulty immune response is at least partly to blame. Eczema causes characteristic symptoms like:
The itchy patches that develop in eczema are prone to bleeding when scratched or rubbed, increasing the risk of infections. The symptoms of eczema tend to become worse during periods called “flare-ups,” and although it’s more common among children, adults can also develop eczema, especially if they had the condition as a child.
No, eczema is not contagious, which means it cannot be passed from one person to another, even through direct contact.
Skin affected by eczema can be especially sensitive, and many issues can cause flare-ups, including:
Eczema is also more common among people with asthma.
Eczema almost always can be diagnosed with just a visual examination and a review of the patient’s symptoms and medical history, including any allergies the patient may have. In a few cases, a small scraping of skin may be taken for further evaluation to rule out other possible issues that may cause similar symptoms.
Many people with mild eczema can relieve symptoms and prevent or reduce flare-ups with changes in their personal routine, including taking shorter, cooler showers and avoiding hot tubs and long, hot baths to avoid overdrying their skin. Sometimes, changing personal care products like soaps or laundry detergents can also help reduce irritation that can trigger flare-ups. Regular use of a non-irritating moisturizer can also help. More moderate or unresponsive symptoms can be treated with topical prescription medications or prescription moisturizers.