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Eczema (say "EGG-zuh-muh") is also called atopic dermatitis. It's a skin problem that causes intense itching and a raised rash. Sometimes the rash develops blisters and crusts. It is often scaly. The rash is not contagious. You can't catch it from others.
In lighter skin, the rash may look pink or red. In darker skin, the rash may be hard to see or it may look dark brown, grey, or purple. Or there may be patches of lighter skin.
Eczema often runs in families. People with eczema may also have allergies and asthma.
There is no cure for eczema. But you may be able to control it with care at home.
Gentle skin care can help improve your skin. Regular use of moisturizers can reduce the itching, keep your rash from getting worse, and help it heal. Also, using enough moisturizer may mean that you'll need less medicine.
Here are some tips for keeping your skin hydrated.
Apply it at least twice a day. Thicker creams or ointments, like petroleum jelly, work better than thinner lotions. Moisturizers include Aquaphor, Eucerin, or Purpose. Or you may want to try a skin barrier repair moisturizer, such as CeraVe, that can help with burning and itching. For severe dryness, try petroleum jelly.
Use warm water and a mild soap or a cleanser that doesn't contain soap. Afterwards, gently pat your skin dry with a soft towel. While your skin is still moist or even wet, apply moisturizer right away.
If you still have problems with itch and rash even after you have been using moisturizers, talk to your doctor.
Avoiding things that irritate your skin will help your skin stay healthy. When you notice that your rash or skin is irritated, see if you can figure out what caused the problem.
Here are some tips for avoiding irritants.
Many soaps, lotions, perfumes, laundry detergents, and fabric softeners can irritate your skin.
Cottons and soft fabrics may be more comfortable.
Buy clothes without tags or remove any tags that bother your skin.
Dyes and fabric finishes on new clothes can irritate your skin.
Sudden changes of temperature and dry air can irritate your skin.
Excessive sweating can irritate your skin.
Look for ways to be active indoors, or exercise outdoors when it's not so hot (such as in the early morning).
Current as of: March 22, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Ellen K. Roh MD - Dermatology & Lesley Ryan MD - Family Medicine
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