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What is eczema?

Eczema is an itchy, inflammation of the skin. It is a chronic condition most often seen in infants and children, but can continue into adulthood. It most commonly appears on the arms or behind the knees and can flare up and then subside. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Red to brownish-grey patches on skin
  • Itching, especially at night
  • Small, raised bumps
  • Thickened, cracked or scaly skin
  • Raw, sensitive skin from scratching

What causes eczema?

The cause of eczema is unknown but it’s thought to be due to a combination of dry, irritated skin and a dysfunction of the immune system. It may also be associated with certain allergies, asthma and hay fever.

When to see a doctor

For the treatment of eczema, self-care is important. See a doctor if symptoms become severe and begin distracting you from your daily routine or interrupting your sleep.


Prevention of eczema has to do with keeping the skin from becoming too dry, including:

  • Bathe no more than once a day – When you do bathe, stay in long enough so the skin retains as much water as possible and use warm (not hot) water
  • Use mild cleansers or synthetic detergents – mild soaps clean without removing too much natural oil from the skin
  • Dry carefully – Brush skin with palm of your hand and pat dry with a towel
  • Moisturize skin – Use a thick cream or oil to keep moisture in, especially right after bathing

Source: Mayo Clinic