Eczema Center

Eczema Symptoms

Symptoms of eczema
Many, itchy patches of eczema usually appear where the elbow bends; on the backs of knees, ankles, and wrists; and on the face, neck, and upper chest — although it can appear on any part of the body. Atopic dermatitis can also appear around the eyes, including eyelids. In some, it flares periodically, and subsiding for a time, perhaps up to several years. Itching can be severe, and scratching the rash will likely make it feel itchier. Signs and symptoms of atopic dermatitis (eczema) include:

  • itching, which may be severe, especially at night
  • raw, sensitive skin from scratching
  • red to brownish-gray patches
  • small, raised bumps, which may leak fluid and scab over when scratched
  • thickened, cracked or scaly skin

Other factors can worsen signs and symptoms of atopic dermatitis including:

  • dry skin
  • dust or sand
  • long, hot baths or showers
  • low humidity
  • rapid changes in temperature
  • solvents, cleaners, soaps or detergents
  • stress
  • sweating
  • wool or man-made fabrics or clothing

Symptoms of infantile eczema
Atopic dermatitis in infants is called infantile eczema. Eczema usually appears during infancy, as a red, hot, dry and itchy rash affecting one or more areas on the face and body. It can be mild, moderate or severe. In the first few months of life the rash normally affects the face. Cheeks and chin become red, dry, hot and itchy. The eczema becomes worse with dribbling, hands touching the face and mouth, and saliva that irritates the skin.

This condition can persist into childhood and adolescence. Infantile eczema often produces an oozing, crusting rash, primarily on the face and scalp, but it can appear on other parts of the body. After infancy, the rash becomes dryer, and red to brown-gray in color. During adolescence, skin may become scaly or thickened and easily irritated, accompanied by intense itching.

  • a red, hot, dry and itchy rash
  • located primarily on the face and scalp
  • oozing, crusting rash
  • red to brown-gray color
  • worsens with moisture

Atopic dermatitis usually begins in childhood before age 5 and may continue into adulthood. Breaking this itch-scratch cycle is difficult. Scratching the skin to relieve symptoms of eczema can cause redness and swelling around the eyes, and rubbing or scratching in this area may result in patchy loss of eyebrow hair and eyelashes.

Most people suffering with atopic dermatitis are also diagnosed with Staphylococcus aureus bacteria growing on their skin. Staph bacteria multiply and worsen symptoms, increasing the severity of the dermatitis. There are usually scratch marks on the skin due to itching. They can become infected with bacteria and worsen the eczema. This and other complications of atopic dermatitis (eczema) include:

Eye complications - Severe atopic dermatitis cause complications that lead to permanent eye damage. When complications occur, itching in and around the eyelids becomes severe. Other symptoms include eye watering and inflammation of the eyelid (blepharitis) and the eyelid lining (conjunctivitis).

Neurodermatitis - Prolonged itching and scratching can actually increase the intensity of the itch, and may lead to neurodermatitis (lichen simplex chronicus). This is a condition in which a frequently scratched area of skin becomes thick and leathery. The patches can be raw, red or darker than the rest of the skin. Persistent scratching can also create permanent scars or changes in skin color.

Scarring - In some cases, the entire skin of the face can be covered with red to brown scabs. If not treated properly or if itched all the time, scars may appear.

Skin infections - Scratching can break the skin, causing open sores and fissures that may become infected. Furthermore, the skin in infants who have eczema are prone to viral infections on their skin such as Herpes virus infection. A milder form of infection called impetigo is usually due to staph infection.

When to seek help
If it’s suspected that a child has atopic dermatitis, or the above signs and symptoms appear, see a pediatrician. If complications are suspected, see a doctor promptly. Adults should also see their primary doctor if:

  • you are so uncomfortable that you are distracted from daily routines
  • you are so uncomfortable that you are losing sleep
  • your skin is painful
  • you suspect your skin is infected
  • you've tried self-care steps without success

Though many people contract eczema, symptoms can vary from person to person. If you think you are experiencing eczema, the best bet is to visit a doctor who can refer them to a dermatologist (a specialist in treating skin). To learn more about what to expect in the doctor’s office, continue reading. We’ll cover the medical exams and diagnostic tools doctors use in the next section on Atopic Eczema Diagnosis here.

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