Does Eczema Ever Go Away?

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis (the most common type of eczema), is a common inflammatory skin condition that can present as an itchy, dry rash. Eczema is not curable and won't go away on its own, but treatments are available that help alleviate symptoms.

In this article, learn more about how long eczema symptoms last, what triggers eczema flare-ups (times when symptoms worsen), treatment, and more.

Female scratching eczema on her elbow.

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Eczema Treatment

It may be frustrating to hear, but there is no simple cure for eczema. However, some treatments can help reduce and manage symptoms. These include lifestyle factors, such as taking lukewarm baths, applying ceramide moisturizers, tracking and avoiding your triggers, and using prescription medications or creams.

Some treatments for eczema include:

Other lifestyle, over-the-counter (OTC), complementary, and prescription treatments for eczema are available. Talk to your primary healthcare provider or dermatologist to determine the best eczema treatment for your symptoms.

Eczema Stages

There are three stages of eczema, determined by the length of time a rash and symptoms are present.

Chronic

The chronic stage of eczema is for the longest-lasting rashes, often lasting three or more months. Symptoms of chronic stage eczema include:

  • Itchiness
  • Cracking skin
  • Discolored or dark skin
  • Lichenification (thick, leathery areas of skin due to long-term scratching)
  • Firm bumps

Acute

Acute stage eczema is a rash that just began or is restarting after a period of being calm. Some people with eczema refer to this as a flare-up. In this stage, the skin usually feels itchy before there is any visual evidence of the rash. Symptoms of acute stage eczema include:

  • Extreme itchiness
  • Red rash
  • Bumps or vesicles (fluid-filled blisters)
  • Skin oozing
  • Pain and tenderness
  • Swelling

Subacute

For other medical conditions, "subacute" usually refers to a phase that follows acute. However, some eczema rashes may begin at this stage and skip over the acute phase. Compared to acute, this stage is more known for flakiness and cracking skin. Symptoms of subacute stage eczema include:

  • Dry, cracking, and scaly skin
  • Flakiness
  • Less extreme itchiness
  • Red rash
  • Burning and stinging

What Triggers Eczema Flare-Ups?

Eczema is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. People with asthma, hay fever, or food allergies are more likely to have eczema.

Common eczema triggers include:

  • Stress
  • Certain metals
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Environmental allergens (such as pollen, dust mites, and pet dander)
  • Extreme hot, cold, or dry weather
  • High altitude
  • Hot water
  • Chlorine
  • Certain chemicals (such as bacitracin, formaldehyde, epoxy resin, fragrance, lanolin, urea, parabens, and more)
  • Latex
  • Polyester or wool
  • Colds, flu, or viruses, including COVID-19

Everyone is unique, so you will likely benefit from journaling or tracking your symptoms. Some triggers may be obvious, but others may surprise you when you take the time to track them. Remember that there may be a time delay between exposure to a trigger and experiencing a flare-up.

How Long Do Eczema Flare-Ups Last?

An eczema flare-up could last from two to three weeks if it is immediately and appropriately treated or indefinitely if left untreated or if it's chronic and unresponsive to treatment. If the offending trigger is unidentified and a person continues to be exposed, this may lengthen the flare-up time.

Preventing Flare-Ups

Identifying your triggers helps you control certain factors and lessen your chances of a flare-up. For example, you might choose fragrance-free cosmetics, visit a destination whose climate suits your condition, take fewer baths, or buy clothes made from less-irritating fabrics.

Of course, you can't control every facet of your environment. Try to be patient and forgiving with yourself, and take the approach of minimizing your exposure to triggers rather than avoiding them altogether.

It's also helpful to stick to a moisturizing and skin care regimen and follow all prescription (oral and topical) medication regimens prescribed by your healthcare provider. Avoid itching, and wear nighttime gloves if needed.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

See your healthcare provider if you are experiencing eczema flare-ups, like itchy, red, flaky, burning, weeping, or dry skin. They can diagnose and recommend appropriate OTC or prescription treatments. You should also consult a healthcare provider if you have a flare-up that lasts longer than usual or is not responding to standard treatments.

Summary

Eczema is a common, inflammatory skin condition that can cause very itchy and painful rashes. There is no cure for eczema, but treatments can help manage flares and prevent their recurrence. If you have symptoms of eczema or a flare that just won't budge, talk to your healthcare provider about diagnosis and treatment.

A Word From Verywell

The honest answer to how long an eczema flare lasts is a frustrating one: It depends. However, knowing your eczema triggers and how your body responds to various treatments can help you manage expectations. Remember that eczema does not go away on its own, so the sooner it's treated, the sooner a flare and its symptoms resolve.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Will eczema go away on its own without treatment?

    There is no cure for eczema, and a person with eczema will have flares throughout their lifetime. Often, a flare needs treatment to go away. However, childhood eczema may clear up as the child gets older.

  • How long does it take for an eczema flare-up to clear?

    It can take as short as a few weeks for an eczema flare-up to clear if it is treated quickly with the proper treatment. Chronic or resistant eczema flares could last for several months or longer.

  • What triggers eczema?

    There are many possible eczema triggers, including climate, metals, temperature, fabric materials, chemicals, hot water, and stress.

4 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. National Eczema Association. Available eczema treatments.

  2. Nemeth V, Evans J. Eczema. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; 2022.

  3. National Eczema Association. Eczema causes and triggers.

  4. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Eczema (atopic dermatitis) causes & strategies for prevention.

By Sarah Bence
Sarah Bence, OTR/L, is an occupational therapist and freelance writer. She specializes in a variety of health topics including mental health, dementia, celiac disease, and endometriosis.