Eczema is a chronic, inflammatory skin disorder. It can appear as blisters that crust over to become scaly, itchy rashes, or as dry, thick patches of skin with scales. The main symptom is itching, and symptoms can come and go. Although eczema is not contagious, it is very common. Estimates are that more than 15 million people in the United States have eczema. People with eczema often have a personal or family history of allergies. There is no cure, however, treatments can reduce symptoms and help prevent outbreaks.
Signs and Symptoms
The most common signs of eczema are:
- Dry, extremely itchy skin
- Blisters with oozing and crusting
- Red skin around the blisters
- Raw areas on the skin from scratching, which can cause bleeding
- Dry, leathery areas that are either darker or lighter than their normal skin tone (called lichenification)
- Scaling, or thickened skin
Eczema in children under 2 years old generally starts on the cheeks, elbows, or knees. In adults, it tends to be found on the inside surfaces of the knees and elbows.
Researchers don’t know for sure what causes eczema. It may be a combination of hereditary (genetic) and environmental factors. In some people, having allergies may trigger eczema. Exposure to certain irritants and allergens can make symptoms worse, as can dry skin, exposure to water, temperature changes, and stress.
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