Red, dry, or scaly skin near the eye may indicate eczema. Eczema, also known as dermatitis, can be influenced by many factors. These include your family history, the environment, allergies, or foreign substances such as makeup or moisturizers.

Some forms of eczema are chronic, while others go away with treatment. Treatments range from home remedies to more aggressive prescription drugs. A severe case of eczema near the eye is something to discuss with your doctor immediately.

Learn the types of eczema, what can cause the condition, how you can treat it, and other information for staying healthy and comfortable in your skin.

There are several types of eczema. Three common types include:

Atopic eczema: This type generally presents in children who are younger than 5 years. It affects 20 percent of children and up to 3 percent of adults, according to an article in Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology. It’s long-lasting and caused by genetics, the immune system, and the environment.

Contact eczema: This type is caused by outside agents that irritate the skin. It’s a common type of eczema in adults, and anyone can get it at some point.

Seborrheic eczema: Seborrheic eczema is chronic and is not caused by an allergy or personal care issues. It may be caused by other medical conditions, yeast on the skin, stress, and the environment.

All of these forms of eczema can affect the eye area. This can be particularly bothersome because the skin around the eye is thin and sensitive.

Read more: What is atopic dermatitis? »

Your eyes are a sensitive and susceptible part of your body. The skin surrounding them is thin, and they don’t have a barrier to block allergens or foreign substances from entering. This sensitivity may cause your eye area to become inflamed even when other parts of your body are unaffected.

Some symptoms of eye eczema, which affect the skin around the eyes, may include:

  • itchy, dry skin
  • red, swollen skin
  • thickened skin
  • irritated eyes that may burn and sting
  • raised bumps
  • blisters

People with atopic dermatitis could develop scaly patches and an extra fold of skin under their eyes. Seborrheic eczema may result in scales that can flake off.

Similar conditions

A rash or irritation around the eyes may not always be eczema. There are other conditions that you may have. For example, blepharitis is a common inflammatory condition that affects skin on the eyelid. Allergic conjunctivitis affects the outer part of the eye and can flare up during peak allergy seasons.

There are many causes of eczema. The different types of eczema flare up for various reasons. Eczema is not a contagious condition.

Some factors that may cause atopic eczema include:

  • Family history: You’re more like to have it if you’ve got a family member with eczema, allergies, asthma, or hay fever.
  • Location: Cold temperatures and pollution can aggravate the condition.
  • Sex: Females are more likely to have atopic eczema.

Contact eczema appears after your body comes in contact with an irritant. Some of these irritants can include:

  • makeup
  • lotions, oils, soaps, and shampoos
  • nickel, which is often found in personal grooming tools such as tweezers
  • dust
  • chlorine
  • sunscreen
  • fragrances
  • extreme temperatures
  • humidity

Your eyes may react to a substance you have been exposed to before. They may react to a product you’ve used countless times, especially if the product has changed ingredients. Any time you think that contact with a particular agent is causing eczema, stop using it immediately.

A doctor should review any cases of eczema around the eyes. During your visit, a doctor will also review any other areas that may have eczema. They’ll ask about your symptoms and take your health history.

Diagnosing eczema doesn’t require any lab tests. If the doctor thinks you have contact eczema, they may ask about the substances you’re exposed to at work and home. They may also ask about any products you use on your skin. You may need to have a patch test, which exposes the skin to allergens that may be causing the eczema.

Treatments around the eye should be performed with caution. The eye is a sensitive area of the body, and your eyesight might be at risk if you use inappropriate treatment methods.

In all cases of eczema, calming the affected area and eliminating itching is key to treatment. For atopic eczema, treatment begins with calming the flare-up and then determining a course of action to prevent future flares. Treating contact eczema involves eliminating exposure to the irritating substance.

In most cases, effective treatments should reduce the eczema in 2 to 8 weeks.

Home remedies

There are many home remedies and over-the-counter medications you can try. You should consult your doctor before proceeding. You may need to use multiple treatment methods to clear up your eczema.

You may want to start with home-based treatments for your eczema. Try some of the following options:

Home remedies

  • Apply a cold compress to the inflamed area to reduce itching, swelling, and redness.
  • Use a thick, unscented moisturizer or cream on the affected area.
  • Control your environment by using a humidifier in dry areas and avoiding extreme hot and cold temperatures.
  • Wash your hands before touching your eyes and the skin around them.
  • Trim your fingernails so they can’t scratch or irritate the itchy eczema.
  • Wash your face with an unscented, gentle cleanser.
  • Avoid makeup or other irritants while the eczema is flaring.
  • Reduce any stress you may have, which can worsen the condition.

It’s tempting to try other homeopathic methods to treat your eczema. However, you should be careful about what substances you apply to your face, particularly near your eyes. Honey is thought to treat eczema, but you should not try it without consulting your doctor. Don’t use olive oil because it can damage the thin skin near your eye. There are also claims that diet and specific vitamins and minerals may help eczema, but there is little medical research backing up these assertions.

Over-the-counter treatment

A corticosteroid is often used to treat itching caused by eczema. However, consult your doctor before using it around the eye area.

Antihistamines can help with allergic reactions and may reduce itching and inflammation caused by eczema.

Prescription treatment

Moderate or severe eczema may require a prescription. Severe or persistent eczema should be treated by your doctor. There are several topical and oral prescription medications used to treat eczema, although some of them may not be suitable for the eyes. For example, regular use of steroid creams may lead to glaucoma, a very serious eye condition.

Some of the options your doctor may prescribe include:

  • topical corticosteroids
  • oral corticosteroids
  • topical calcineurin inhibitors
  • prednisone
  • ultraviolet light therapy

Eczema should always be treated in consultation with your doctor. Some forms of eczema, such as contact eczema, will likely improve after 2 to 8 weeks of treatment. More chronic eczema, such as atopic and seborrheic eczema, will need more extensive treatment to reduce flares. Incorporating a proper skin care routine into your daily life will help the eczema improve over time.

Many of the home remedies used to treat eczema will also prevent flare-ups. Make sure you avoid extreme temperatures, keep your skin moisturized with fragrance-free lotions, and stop using any product that irritates your skin.