Information for Patients
Eczema is a term for several different types of skin swelling. Eczema is also called dermatitis. Most types cause dry, itchy skin and rashes on the face, inside the elbows and behind the knees, and on the hands and feet. Scratching the skin can cause it to turn red, and to swell and itch even more.
Eczema is not contagious. The cause is not known. It is likely caused by both genetic and environmental factors. Eczema may get better or worse over time, but it is often a long-lasting disease. People who have it may also develop hay fever and asthma.
The most common type of eczema is atopic dermatitis. It is most common in babies and children but adults can have it too. As children who have atopic dermatitis grow older, this problem may get better or go away. But sometimes the skin may stay dry and get irritated easily.
Treatments may include medicines, skin creams, light therapy, and good skin care. You can prevent some types of eczema by avoiding
- Things that irritate your skin, such as certain soaps, fabrics, and lotions
- Things you are allergic to, such as food, pollen, and animals
NIH: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
What is itching?
Itching is an irritating sensation that makes you want to scratch your skin. Sometimes it can feel like pain, but it is different. Often, you feel itchy in one area in your body, but sometimes you may feel itching all over. Along with the itching, you may also have a rash or hives.
What causes itching?
Itching is a symptom of many health conditions. Some common causes are
- Allergic reactions to food, insect bites, pollen, and medicines
- Skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and dry skin
- Irritating chemicals, cosmetics, and other substances
- Parasites such as pinworms, scabies, head and body lice
- Liver, kidney, or thyroid diseases
- Certain cancers or cancer treatments
- Diseases that can affect the nervous system, such as diabetes and shingles
What are the treatments for itching?
Most itching is not serious. To feel better, you could try
- Applying cold compresses
- Using moisturizing lotions
- Taking lukewarm or oatmeal baths
- Using over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream or antihistamines
- Avoiding scratching, wearing irritating fabrics, and exposure to high heat and humidity
Contact your health care provider if your itching is severe, does not go away after a few weeks, or does not have an apparent cause. You may need other treatments, such as medicines or light therapy. If you have an underlying disease that is causing the itching, treating that disease may help.