How is Eczema Diagnostic Procedure, and What Are the Available Treatment Options?

What Is Eczema?

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic skin condition that causes inflamed, itchy, and often cracked skin. It can occur at any age but is most commonly seen in children. Eczema is characterized by a defective skin barrier that makes it more susceptible to irritation and allows moisture to escape, leading to dry skin. This condition is not contagious but can be uncomfortable and may worsen over time if not managed properly.

What Are the Symptoms?

The symptoms of eczema include intense itching, red or brownish-gray patches, small raised bumps that may leak fluid when scratched, thickened or scaly skin, and raw, sensitive skin from scratching. These symptoms typically appear on the face, back of the knees, wrists, hands, or feet, although they can manifest anywhere on the body. The severity of the symptoms can vary and often flare up followed by times of relief.

What Does It Look Like?

Eczema manifests as patches of skin that are red and inflamed, often with small, blister-like bumps. In darker skin tones, eczema may appear brown, purple, or gray. Over time, areas affected by eczema might become thick and leathery due to constant scratching, a condition known as lichenification. The appearance can vary widely depending on the severity and the individual’s skin tone.

What Can Make Eczema Flare Up?

Eczema flare-ups can be triggered by various factors including dry skin, irritants (like soaps, detergents, or shampoos), allergens, changes in temperature or humidity, stress, and infections. Identifying and avoiding personal triggers is crucial in managing eczema. Each individual may have different triggers, so keeping a symptom diary can help identify what exacerbates the condition in specific cases.

Is Eczema Caused by Allergy?

While not solely caused by allergies, eczema can be significantly influenced by them. Allergens such as dust mites, pet dander, pollen, and certain foods can trigger or worsen eczema symptoms in susceptible individuals. It’s often part of an “atopic triad” that includes asthma and allergic rhinitis, suggesting a strong link to allergic conditions. Testing for allergies might help in managing eczema by avoiding identified allergens.

How to Manage Eczema Through Lifestyle Changes?

Managing eczema involves making several lifestyle adjustments that can significantly alleviate symptoms and reduce flare-ups. Key strategies include:

  • Avoid Triggers: Identifying and avoiding triggers is crucial. Common triggers include harsh soaps, wool fabrics, stress, and allergens like pollen or pet dander.
  • Take Lukewarm Showers: Hot water can strip the skin of essential oils and lead to dryness. Opt for lukewarm showers and limit their duration to help maintain the skin’s natural moisture.
  • Wear Breathable Fabrics: Clothing made from cotton or other soft, breathable materials can prevent irritation and help the skin heal.
  • Use a Humidifier: Dry environments can exacerbate eczema. Using a humidifier, especially during dry seasons or in air-conditioned rooms, helps maintain a skin-friendly level of humidity.

How to Create an At-Home Skincare Routine if You Have Eczema?

Developing a skincare routine that caters to eczema-prone skin can protect the skin barrier and reduce symptoms:

  • The Basics—What to Use and Which Ingredients to Avoid: Use gentle, fragrance-free cleansers and moisturizers. Avoid irritants and allergens commonly found in skincare products.
  • Cleanser: Choose a mild, soap-free cleanser that doesn’t leave the skin tight or dry after washing.
  • Moisturizer: After bathing, apply a thick, fragrance-free moisturizer to damp skin to lock in moisture.
  • Ingredients to Avoid: Steer clear of products containing alcohol, retinoids, alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), and vitamin C, as they can irritate sensitive skin.
  • Active Ingredients Like Retinol and Vitamin C: These ingredients, while beneficial for other skin types, can aggravate eczema. They should generally be avoided unless recommended by a dermatologist.
  • Exfoliation: Exfoliate minimally, as over-exfoliating can damage the skin barrier. Use a gentle exfoliating method that does not scratch or irritate the skin.
  • Sun Protection: Protecting the skin from UV rays is crucial. Use a mineral-based sunscreen that is formulated for sensitive skin.

How is Eczema Diagnosed?

Eczema is typically diagnosed by a healthcare provider through a combination of medical history review, physical examination, and sometimes skin tests. There is no single test that can diagnose eczema, so doctors often rely on the following methods:

  • Medical History: The doctor will ask about symptoms, their duration, and any family history of eczema or other allergic conditions such as asthma or hay fever.
  • Physical Examination: The appearance of the skin plays a crucial role in diagnosing eczema. Doctors look for the characteristic patterns of redness, scaling, and itching.
  • Patch Testing: If the doctor suspects that certain substances trigger the eczema, patch testing may be conducted. This involves placing small amounts of potential allergens on the skin to see if they cause a reaction.
  • Other Tests: In some cases, blood tests or a skin biopsy might be recommended to rule out other conditions that can mimic eczema.

What are the Available Treatment Options?

Treatment for eczema aims to heal the affected skin and prevent flare-ups of symptoms. Here’s an overview of the most common treatments:

  • Moisturizers: Using moisturizers is crucial for keeping the skin hydrated and repairing the skin barrier. Products labeled as “for sensitive skin” and those that are fragrance-free are generally recommended.
  • Topical Corticosteroids: These are anti-inflammatory medicines applied to the skin to reduce swelling, redness, and itching. They are available in various strengths and should be used as directed by a healthcare provider.
  • Systemic Medications: For severe cases, doctors might prescribe oral or injected medications that work throughout the body. These include corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, or newer biologic drugs that specifically target parts of the immune system.
  • Light Therapy: Phototherapy involves exposing the skin to controlled amounts of natural sunlight or artificial ultraviolet light. Regular sessions can help reduce itch and inflammation.
  • Lifestyle and Home Remedies: Identifying and avoiding triggers, using a humidifier, wearing soft, breathable clothing, and adopting a gentle skin care routine can also help manage symptoms.
  • Wet Wraps: This involves applying corticosteroid cream to the eczema, covering it with wet bandages, and then putting dry bandages over the top. This method can help improve the effectiveness of the treatment for severe symptoms.

Each treatment plan is tailored to the individual, considering the severity of the eczema, the patient’s age, and other health conditions. It’s important for patients to work closely with their healthcare providers to determine the best approach for managing their eczema effectively.

Final Thoughts

Eczema is a complex skin condition influenced by genetic, environmental, and possibly allergic factors. It presents a variety of symptoms, primarily characterized by dry, itchy, and inflamed skin. Managing eczema effectively requires a comprehensive approach that includes identifying and avoiding triggers, implementing tailored skincare routines, and making specific lifestyle changes. By taking these steps, individuals with eczema can alleviate symptoms and improve their quality of life.


To look good with eczema, focus on gentle skincare, moisturizing regularly, avoiding triggers, and using makeup to cover any redness or patches if desired.
Repairing eczema-damaged skin involves moisturizing with thick, fragrance-free creams, using topical steroids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory creams as prescribed, and protecting the skin from further irritation.
Skin can recover from eczema with proper treatment and management, although it may take time and consistency in skincare routines.
The three stages of eczema are: acute (red, inflamed skin with itching), subacute (increased itching, more redness, and possible flaking or scaling), and chronic (thickened, leathery skin with intense itching and potential changes in skin color).