Eczema Diagnosis

Written by the Healthline Editorial Team | Published on July 15, 2014
Medically Reviewed by Kenneth R. Hirsch, MD on July 15, 2014

Diagnosing Eczema

Patches of itchy, red, raw, and inflamed skin are the hallmarks of eczema. Eczema can flare up and disappear, only to flare up again. Make an appointment with your dermatologist or your child’s pediatrician for an evaluation and diagnosis.

To properly diagnose eczema, your doctor may start with a complete physical exam and will ask you questions about your symptoms and how long these symptoms have lasted.

What to Tell Your Doctor

It’s important to tell your doctor everything about your symptoms in order to get the best diagnosis. Because there are a few kinds of eczema and several treatment options, you want to help your doctor get to the root of the problem in order provide the best guidance.

In addition to a detailed description of your specific symptoms (i.e. itchy, hot, burning, etc.), be sure to inform your doctor of the following:

  • how long you’ve had symptoms
  • where they appear
  • if anything seems to worsen the symptoms

Tests

A doctor can use a physical exam and a patch test to diagnose eczema.

Physical Exam

Your doctor may want to do a physical exam. This may require you to disrobe and put on a gown, to allow your doctor to look at all the affected areas of your skin.

Your doctor will look at your skin, examine any red, scaly spots or areas where you complain of itchiness. He or she will be looking for the telltale signs of eczema, such as red patches, scales, and rashes.

Your doctor will also be looking to rule out other skin disorders that can have similar symptoms.

If there are signs that you are experiencing an allergic reaction rather than eczema, your dermatologist may order a test called the patch test, which can help identify everyday irritants to which a person is allergic.

Patch Test

Although there is no specific test used to diagnose eczema, your doctor may perform a patch test to pinpoint certain allergens that may trigger eczema symptoms, such as skin allergies associated with contact dermatitis.

During a patch test, an allergen is applied to a patch that is placed on the skin for up to 48 hours. If you are allergic to that allergen, your skin will become inflamed and irritated. In order to find exactly what is causing the symptoms, your doctor may have to test several allergens on your skin.

The Outlook for Eczema

Once your doctor has determined that you have eczema, he or she will be able to suggest a method of treatment. If your doctor is unsure of the cause or wants more information on your condition, he or she may refer you to an allergist or another specialist. 

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