In people with eczema, symptoms may be chronic, or come and go in a pattern of flares and remission. In severe cases, eczema symptoms can significantly impact quality of life, affecting work and school performance as well as personal relationships. There are effective treatments that can relieve eczema symptoms in many people, but some cases of eczema can be difficult to treat.
Eczema can impact the skin in various ways depending on the type of eczema and its severity. Eczema can also cause general symptoms. Each type of eczema is more common on some parts of the body than others. Areas typically affected by eczema include the hands, feet, face, scalp, back, upper chest, wrists and ankles, and arms and legs. Some people are affected by eczema over large portions of their bodies. Cases of widespread eczema may be difficult to treat with topical medications, since there is a greater chance of side effects.
Eczema can cause an array of skin symptoms. Most commonly, rash caused by eczema is red, dry, swollen, itchy, and painful. Depending on the type, eczema can also cause:
Scratching eczema rashes can lead to bleeding, scarring, and skin infections such as cellulitis.
Eczema can cause intense itching and a range of pain sensations wherever it affects the skin. Eczema pain is most often described as burning or stinging. Eczema can also cause the skin to feel tender or bruised.
The pain and itching of eczema can lead to insomnia — also called “painsomnia.” Depression and anxiety are common for people with eczema, as they are for people with all types of chronic illnesses. Lack of sleep can contribute to depression and anxiety, and vice versa. People with eczema often face social challenges, such as embarrassment when others stare or worry whether the condition is contagious.
Eczema cannot be diagnosed based on symptoms alone. Eczema is usually diagnosed with a detailed patient and family history, a physical exam, and possibly a skin patch test or other procedures to confirm the diagnosis.
Learn more about how eczema is diagnosed.