Eczema is a general term used to describe itchy, red, often scaly skin, and is most commonly associated with either atopic dermatitis or contact dermatitis.
Atopic dermatitis is a skin condition that often presents in childhood, usually in the first year of life. The skin’s barrier is compromised and it becomes extremely itchy. Scratching and rubbing result in a red rash that may flake, blister, or even bleed. In babies, the rash is commonly seen on the scalp, forehead, and cheeks. We don’t know the exact cause of atopic dermatitis, but both genetics and the environment play a role. Although atopic dermatitis can extend into adulthood, most children grow out of the condition by the time they are teenagers. Treatment of the eczematous rash associated with atopic dermatitis can be challenging and requires patience and persistence. Your doctor will devise a careful skin care regimen and may prescribe topical or oral medications depending on the quality and extent of your rash. Keeping your eczema under good control is important to minimize itch and to prevent skin infections, which are more common on eczematous skin.
Contact dermatitis also causes an eczema-type itchy red rash. In these cases, the skin is either irritated by or allergic to a caustic substance. Irritants might include acids, corrosives, or chemicals, and allergens might include plants like poison ivy, metals like nickel, preservatives, fragrances or other chemicals. Whatever the culprit substance, the skin reacts by becoming itchy, red, scaly, and occasionally blistered. The first step of treatment is stopping skin contact with the irritant or allergen. Topical steroids or other medications are then often used to reduce inflammation and repair the skin’s barrier.