Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a common adult skin condition. The American Academy of Dermatology estimates 1 to 3-percent of adults have the condition. Most individuals develop the condition during childhood or adolescence and it persists into adulthood. Less often, it develops exclusively in adulthood. Inflamed, red, dry, and itchy patches of skin characterize eczema. The patches can occur anywhere on the body, but most commonly are seen on the elbows, hands, and in skin folds.
Eczema has strong genetic links and is commonly associated with asthma and hay fever (allergic rhinitis). It is estimated about 70-percent of individuals diagnosed with eczema have a family history of eczema, asthma, or hay fever. Eczema is not contagious. It has no cure, but may be controlled with topical steroid creams and ointments, oral antihistamines, and immunosuppressants (medications that prevent the immune system from overreacting). Particularly resistant cases of eczema may be treated with light therapy, or phototherapy.