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Eczema is a skin irritation that causes red, itchy, inflamed patches of skin. It’s common in infants and affects around 3% of children and adults in the United States. While children may outgrow it, for others eczema is a lifelong condition.
Though eczema has no cure, it is manageable and not contagious.
In infants, eczema most often appears on the scalp or face, causing crusty or oily scaled patches. Children and adults get eczema rashes at the knees, elbows, neck, wrists, ankles, feet, or face. It usually presents as a scaly, itchy, dry rash and may thicken the skin or change its color if untreated.
A few of the conditions under the umbrella term “eczema,” include:
- Atopic dermatitis: a chronic inflammatory skin disease.
- Seborrheic dermatitis: occurs where you have plenty of oil glands, often on the scalp and face, sometimes the ears or chest.
- Stasis dermatitis: pressure build-up in blood veins, often in lower legs, forcing fluid to leak out and onto the skin.
- Contact dermatitis: a reaction to an allergen or irritant that touches the skin.
- Dyshidrotic eczema: fluid-filled blisters that appear mostly on hands and feet, usually caused by sweat, water or exposure to nickel
- Nummular eczema: itchy, coin-shaped spots or lesions that appear on the hands, arms, chest or legs.
You can prevent eczema flare-ups by moisturizing, paying attention to and avoiding possible triggers and monitoring the use of harsh detergents and cleaners in your home.
Eczema treatment centers on relieving symptoms and preventing infection due to scratching. You may be prescribed over-the-counter lotions with hydrocortisone, antihistamines and cold compresses for itching. In severe cases, prescription corticosteroids or UV light therapy may be useful.