What Is Eczema?

Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is a chronic skin condition that produces dry, scaly patches and intense itching. Scratching of the itchy skin results in red raised spots, thickened skin and open cuts. The intense itch also makes it difficult to sleep, resulting in fatigue, poor performance at school and work, inability to perform activities of daily living and overall poorer quality of life.

Eczema can affect children and adults, males and females and people of all races and ethnicities. About 1 in 10 children in the United States have eczema, and one-third of childhood cases are moderate to severe. Most cases of eczema begin in childhood, though it is possible to develop eczema for the first time as an adult.

Studies show that four out of five children in the United States with eczema experience symptoms into adulthood, with 7 to 10 percent of the adult population being affected by the disease.

Related Resources

  • Medical Outcomes Research in Eczema (MORE): MORE is a study of patient-centered outcomes in adults and children with eczema. Researchers in the Northwestern University Department of Dermatology are conducting this study. We want to hear what patients have to say about their eczema and what bothers them the most from having eczema. To participate in the survey you must be at least 18 years of age and have chronic eczema, or be the parent of a minor child with chronic eczema.
  • National Eczema Association: Improving the health and quality of life for individuals with eczema through research, support and education.
  • Society for Investigative Dermatology (SID): The SID mission is to advance and promote the sciences relevant to skin health and disease through education, advocacy and scholarly exchange of scientific information.
  • American Academy of Dermatology: Our mission is to promote leadership in dermatology and excellence in patient care through education, research and advocacy.
  • Severe Eczema in Children Linked to Multiple Comorbid Conditions: Researchers set out to determine the impact of eczema severity on the development of these disorders and other non-atopic comorbidities in atopic dermatitis. (The Dermatologist, September 2013)
  • Childhood Eczema May Last Into Adulthood: Study: Despite a widespread belief that childhood eczema clears up by adolescence, a new study suggests the condition often lasts until adulthood. (Reuters, April 2014)