Eczema in Adults: Everything You Need to Know

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that can result in scaly patches, dry skin, blisters, irritation, and rashes.

Eczema is most common in children before age 5, but it can appear, or even reappear, in adulthood as well.

This article will discuss eczema in adults, including causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, potential complications, and more.

Causes of Eczema in Adults

There's no one known cause of eczema. It's thought to be caused by a combination of genetics and environmental factors. People with eczema tend to have an overactive immune system. Their immune system can set off an allergic reaction when they come into contact with an irritant, causing inflammation.

There are a number of potential triggers and risk factors for eczema in adults. Eczema affects each individual differently and the skin condition can worsen with certain triggers, including:

  • Stress
  • Allergens, including being allergic to certain ingredients in hygiene or household products, or even foods or seasonal allergies
  • Dry skin
  • Genetics
  • Environmental irritants, including the weather patterns where you live

Symptoms of Eczema in Adults

Symptoms of eczema include:

  • Redness
  • A scaly rash
  • Itchiness
  • Dryness
  • Oozing, weeping, or crusting
  • Cracked or broken skin

Eczema symptoms share similarities with other conditions that affect the skin, such as psoriasis, which have different causes and treatments. A healthcare provider or skin specialist (such as a dermatologist) can help you get a proper diagnosis and the appropriate treatment.

Adult Eczema Diagnosis

There are no specific tests that can confirm an eczema diagnosis. However, healthcare providers can diagnose the skin condition based on the amount of symptoms and how those symptoms present.

Healthcare providers will take note of how many minor and major eczema features are being experienced in order to come to an eczema diagnosis. In order to be diagnosed with eczema, someone must have three or more features from both the major and minor features.

Treatment of Eczema in Adults

There is currently no cure for eczema. However, there are plenty of treatments that can help manage eczema's symptoms such as:

Look for the NEA Seal of Acceptance

When looking for products to help manage your eczema symptoms, look for the Seal of Acceptance from the National Eczema Association.

Potential Complications for Adults With Eczema

Some potential complications for adults with eczema include:

When to See a Healthcare Professional

You should see a healthcare provider if your symptoms are interfering with your daily life (such as affecting your sleep or emotional health) or are new or worsening.

It's important to see a healthcare professional immediately if a rash comes on quickly, covers a large portion of the body, blisters, or is accompanied by a fever or pain. This may indicate infection that needs prompt medical treatment.

Summary

Eczema is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that is most common in childhood, but it can appear or reappear during adulthood. Eczema is marked by a red, scaly rash as well as itchiness, dryness, and cracked or broken skin.

No single test can diagnose eczema, but the condition can be diagnosed by a healthcare professional based on symptoms. Treatment options will vary based on the individual and their triggers.

A Word From Verywell

Eczema symptoms can be uncomfortable and disruptive to daily life. However, with the right course of treatment and self-care, eczema can be managed. Talk to your healthcare provider about the triggers of your eczema so you can work to prevent flare-ups and improve your quality of life.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can adults suddenly get eczema?

    While eczema is most common in children, it is possible to get it for the first time as an adult. If eczema appears after the age of 18, it's called adult-onset eczema. In fact, it's common for adult-onset eczema to appear in people in their 50s.

  • Can you get eczema from stress?

    Yes, stress can trigger an eczema flare-up.

  • What triggers eczema in adults?

    Triggers for eczema in adults include stress, allergens, genetics, and environmental irritants, such as climate. Certain household and hygiene products, such as shampoos and conditioners and other cleansers, and materials, such as certain metals or fabrics, can trigger eczema as well.


6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Pyun BY. Natural history and risk factors of atopic dermatitis in childrenAllergy Asthma Immunol Res. 2015;7(2):101-5. doi:10.4168/aair.2015.7.2.101

  2. National Eczema Association. Eczema causes & triggers.

  3. Arkwright PD, Motala C, Subramanian H, et al. Management of difficult-to-treat atopic dermatitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2013;1(2):142-51. doi:10.1016/j.jaip.2012.09.002

  4. National Eczema Association. Eczema product directory.

  5. Kim BE, Leung DYM. Significance of skin barrier dysfunction in atopic dermatitisAllergy Asthma Immunol Res. 2018;10(3):207-15. doi:10.4168/aair.2018.10.3.207

  6. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Can you get eczema as an adult?

By Molly Burford
Molly Burford is a mental health advocate and wellness book author with almost 10 years of experience in digital media.