While many people find that their eczema lessens or disappears as they get older, it may not be as common as people believe.

Eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, is a chronic skin condition that will affect 1 in 10 people in their lifetime, according to the National Eczema Association. It commonly appears during early childhood, with 80% of people with the condition developing it before the age of 6.

Several studies have suggested that most children with eczema eventually outgrow the condition later in childhood. But other studies suggest that the percentage of people with persistent eczema is under-reported ― and that many people don’t actually outgrow it.

In this article, we’ll explore what the research says about whether or not you can outgrow eczema, how to treat it, and what happens if it’s left untreated.

Research suggests that most children with eczema will eventually outgrow the condition.

In one large research review from 2016, researchers explored the available studies on the persistence of atopic dermatitis throughout life. Over 110,000 study participants from 45 studies were analyzed in this review.

The researchers found that roughly 80% of children with atopic dermatitis outgrew the condition by 8 years of age, and less than 5% of children still had eczema 20 years after diagnosis.

Even with these statistics, however, some health experts are still on the fence about how many people actually outgrow the condition.

For example, when considering factors like an overestimated prevalence of eczema and a lack of long-term follow-up into adulthood, researchers believe that fewer people outgrow the condition than previously shown.

Research shows that for many children with eczema, symptoms usually lessen or subside altogether as they get older. But experts still aren’t entirely sure why the condition goes away for some people but for others, it’s lifelong.

Some studies suggest that several factors affect whether eczema persists into later life.

One earlier study from 2014 explored the persistence of atopic dermatitis in over 7,100 participants with the condition. Results of the study found that several factors were associated with persistent eczema, including race, lower income, exposure to environmental triggers, and other atopic conditions.

In the review from 2016 mentioned above, the researchers also noted that children who had the disease for longer developed it later in life or had more severe symptoms were more likely to have persistent eczema.

However, children with treatment-resistant symptoms, later onset, more severe symptoms, or a combination thereof tend to have more persistent symptoms as well.

It’s also possible for eczema symptoms to go away when the disease is in remission. Remission describes a period of time when a disease or condition is not active and doesn’t produce symptoms.

During remission, eczema symptoms can disappear altogether, even if the condition is not entirely “gone.” However, symptoms may reappear and flare up again during periods of stress or after exposure to triggers.

Everyone’s eczema symptoms are different, so it’s difficult for health experts to pin down exactly what age symptoms are the worst.

For some people, symptoms will peak in early childhood and eventually lessen as they enter adolescence and adulthood. But for others, especially those whose disease continues into later life, the symptoms can be more severe and significantly affect quality of life.

Eczema is not a contagious skin disease, but eczema symptoms can sometimes spread to different areas of the skin during a flare-up.

One of the best ways to prevent eczema from flaring and developing on additional parts of your body is to get treatment. Some of the most common treatments for eczema include:

  • Medications: Topical, oral, and injectable medications can help fight the symptoms of eczema and reduce the risk of flare-ups. Common eczema medications include antihistamines, hydrocortisone, or other steroids. Antibiotics may also be used to treat complications of eczema.
  • Phototherapy: Severe eczema that occurs in different areas of the skin can also benefit from treatments like phototherapy. Phototherapy, also called light therapy, involves exposing the skin to ultraviolet light regularly over several weeks to decrease skin inflammation.
  • Lifestyle changes: Even with medication and therapies, most eczema management takes place at home. Strategies like avoiding triggers, frequent moisturization, dietary changes, and other at-home treatments can help keep eczema from spreading.

If left untreated, the itchiness, redness, discoloration, or painful symptoms of eczema can worsen and possibly develop on other areas of the skin.

Over time, this can cause damage to the skin and increase the risk of complications, including bacterial, viral, or fungal infections. Untreated eczema symptoms can also have an effect on your daily life and make it difficult to do daily hygiene activities, which can significantly affect your quality of life and mental health.

Eczema is a common childhood skin condition. Some people with eczema will eventually outgrow the condition, but just as many people will continue to live with the symptoms of chronic eczema as adolescents and adults.

If you’ve been dealing with the symptoms of eczema, treatment can help decrease your symptoms and improve your day-to-day life. Consider contacting your doctor to discuss what treatment options might be available to you.