It is not clear what causes the inflammation to happen. Things that may play a role include:

  • Genetics
  • Environment
  • Allergies

Risk Factors

Things that may increase the risk of eczema are:

  • Having asthma or allergies
  • Living in city or places with low humidity
  • Eczema or allergies in family members
  • Regular contact with things that irritate the skin such as:
    • Fabrics
    • Perfumes in soaps
    • Dust mites (common)
    • Rubber gloves for people sensitive to latex
  • Stress—scratching can be a habit with stress
  • Scratching or rubbing of skin, or washing the area often
  • Medicine that lowers the immune system
  • Excess weight or obesity



Eczema may cause some of the following:

  • Dry, itchy skin (very common)
  • Red rashes on the cheeks, arms, and legs
  • Red, scaly skin
  • Thick, leathery skin
  • Small, raised bumps on the skin
  • Crusting, oozing, or cracking of the skin


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. The diagnosis is often made based on how the skin looks. Tests may be done to rule out other problems or to look for an infection.



Eczema cannot be cured. The goal of treatment is to ease itching and redness. It is also to reduce the number of flare ups.

Treatment to ease symptoms may include:

Skin Care

Easing stress on the skin includes:

  • Avoiding hot or long baths or showers
  • Using mild, unscented bar soap or non-soap cleanser
  • Air-drying or gently patting skin dry
  • Using gentle moisturizers after a shower when skin is still damp
  • Treating skin infections right away
  • Looking for possible irritants and avoiding them when possible.

Scratching the skin can make symptoms worse. It can also damage the skin and increase the risk of infection. Medicine may help if itching is intense.


Medicine may be needed to ease symptoms. Examples include:

  • Prescription creams and ointments—to ease flare up and irritation of skin
  • Prescription or over-the-counter antihistamines—to help ease itching
  • Antibiotics to treat infection—given as a cream or pill
  • Pills to reduce inflammation of the skin
  • Monoclonal antibody shots—to reduce inflammation


Light therapy may be tried if other care is not helpful. It will include time exposed to sunlight or artificial UV light. A medicine may be used to make skin more sensitive to the light. This light does have risks of premature aging of skin and skin cancer. The doctor will review benefits and possible risks.


There are no steps to prevent eczema. Flare ups may be prevented through steps above.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.