What is Eczema?

While there’s no eczema cure, the condition is in most cases treatable and manageable. Eczema actually refers to a set of chronic skin conditions characterized by itching and rashing; atopic dermatitis, typified by an intense, frequent itch and red rash that can appear all over the body, is the most common of these.

See all types of eczema ›

Eczema diagnoses are most common among infants and young children – and while baby eczema can continue into adulthood, cases of adult eczema are less frequent. (Eczema symptoms below.)

Many people get eczema on their elbows, neck, behind their knees, wrists and ankles. Babies often have eczema on the face, especially the cheeks and chin. They can also get it on the scalp, chest, back, and outer arms and legs.

Did You Know?
Atopic dermatitis affects between 8.7%–18.1% of all infants and young children.

Eczema symptoms

What does eczema look like? Symptoms are different for each person: eczema can be mild, moderate, or severe. Generally, people with eczema symptoms suffer from dry, sensitive skin. Other symptoms include intense itching, recurring rash, swelling, scaly areas, oozing or crusting, dark‐colored patches of skin, and rough, leathery patches.

The eczema rash may even look different or affect different parts of your body from time to time. To help you distinguish between eczema and psoriasis, which can also cause rashes, here are a few key differences.

Eczema vs. Psoriasis

  • Eczema and psoriasis can both cause itching, but with psoriasis your skin may also sting or burn
  • Itching with eczema can be intense to the point that you scratch your skin until it bleeds
  • Skin is generally thicker, or scaled, and more inflamed with psoriasis than eczema

With eczema, the frequent scratching due to severe itching can make your rash even worse, leading to even more inflammation and itching. (Called the itch‐scratch cycle, which proper treatment can alleviate.) You may experience flare‐ups and times when your skin is clear.

Although you or your child may experience some or all of the symptoms above, an eczema diagnosis should be only made by your doctor.