Eczema is an allergic reaction that causes skin to be red, swollen, dry and itchy.

What are eczema and atopic dermatitis?

Eczema is an allergic condition that makes your skin dry and itchy, and is typically found in babies and children. It’s one of the most common chronic skin disorders and is not contagious.

The most common type of eczema is atopic dermatitis. You can prevent many types of eczema by avoiding irritants, stress and the things you’re allergic to.

What causes eczema and atopic dermatitis?

Factors that can cause eczema include other diseases, irritating substances, allergies and your genetic makeup.

Common triggers for eczema include:

  • Food allergies, including eggs, milk, wheat, corn and soy
  • Environmental allergens, such as pollen, dust, animal dander and mold
  • Skin irritants
  • Lack of sleep and a quality diet
  • Not enough sleep

People with atopic dermatitis often have asthma or seasonal allergies. There’s often a family history of allergies such as asthma, hay fever or eczema. While some people with atopic dermatitis test positive to allergy skin tests, atopic dermatitis is not caused by allergies.

What are the symptoms of eczema and atopic dermatitis?

The most typical symptoms of eczema are red, swollen and itchy skin. In a small child, the redness and itching is usually on the face and scalp. In school-age children or older, it’s more commonly found on the skin on the insides of the elbows and knees.

How does Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center treat eczema and atopic dermatitis?

The best way to treat eczema is to prevent it by:

  • Washing with non-soap cleansers
  • Keeping your skin hydrated with a hypoallergenic moisturizer
  • Protecting your skin from contact with household chemicals by wearing rubber gloves

Sometimes topical medication is needed. Topical steroids can quickly decrease redness and itching, but long-term use carries risks of skin thinning and scarring. Bacterial staph infections of the skin are common in atopic dermatitis patients. Topical or oral antibiotics may be needed to alleviate the infection. Other topical medications such as immunosuppressants may be needed for severe atopic dermatitis. Ultraviolet light treatment is another promising new treatment, although this does come with an increased risk of skin cancer.

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