While we don’t fully understand what causes eczema to develop, it’s not known to spread between people.

Eczema (or atopic dermatitis) is a common inflammatory skin condition affecting both children and adults. Eczema symptoms can vary by type, but the most common symptom includes dry, itchy, and inflamed patches of skin.

Even though eczema can cause rashes that may look contagious, you can’t actually spread the condition to another person. But if you already have eczema, your rashes can sometimes spread to other areas of your body during a flare-up.

Here’s how and where eczema can spread on the body, as well as some tips for preventing eczema from spreading during flares.

Eczema is not a contagious skin disease. This means it’s not a skin condition that’s spread through direct or indirect contact with another person. In other words, you can’t “catch” eczema from someone else who has it.

Experts still aren’t sure what causes someone to develop eczema. However, genetics, immune system dysfunction, and environmental factors can all play a role.

While you can’t spread eczema to another person, it’s still possible for eczema to spread to different areas of your body, especially during a flare-up.

During an eczema flare-up, you may notice a worsening of symptoms, such as:

  • intensely dry and itchy skin
  • irritated or inflamed skin
  • red, brown, gray, or discolored skin patches
  • flaky or crusty patches of skin
  • thick or scaly areas on the skin
  • bumps, cracks, and sores that ooze
  • burning, tingling, or stinging skin pain

Eczema can cause areas of the skin to become almost unbearably itchy, which often triggers the urge to rub or scratch the skin.

But as tempting as it can be to scratch that itch, scratching or rubbing an eczema rash will only make the inflammation worse. In fact, not only can it cause the rash to spread, but it can also increase the risk of complications like skin infections.

For some people, eczema can spread to the groin or genital area — also known as genital eczema.

Eczema that affects the penis is called penile eczema, while eczema that affects the vulva is known as vulvar eczema.

Symptoms of genital eczema are similar to eczema that appears anywhere else on the body — dry, itchy skin, thick patches, or small bumps and blisters. However, a lot of these symptoms also overlap with the symptoms of many sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

If you have eczema and have noticed eczema-like symptoms appearing on your genitals, it could be genital eczema. But if you’re not experiencing any other flare-up symptoms or your symptoms developed shortly after sex, consider reaching out to a doctor for STI testing.

Did you know?

Eczema rashes can appear in different places on the body, and these locations tend to vary depending on age:

  • In children, eczema commonly appears on the face, scalp, and creases of the elbows and knees.
  • In adults, eczema frequently appears on the face, back of the neck, and creases of the knees and elbows.
Was this helpful?

Eczema may cycle through periods of remission and flare-ups, but there are steps you can take to manage symptoms when they appear.

Some of those steps include:

  • Avoiding triggers: Understanding your eczema triggers is the most crucial step in preventing your symptoms from starting or getting worse. And if you’re having a flare-up, it’s important to start treating the symptoms before they progress.
  • Using medications: Prescription medications targeting inflammation are often the first-line treatment for severe eczema symptoms. Over-the-counter options can also help manage mild symptoms like itching and dryness.
  • Trying therapies: Phototherapy, also known as light therapy, and laser therapy are two treatments that can reduce skin inflammation in eczema. Both of these approaches typically take multiple sessions to see results.
  • Treating at home: At-home approaches like oatmeal baths and wet wrapping may also help prevent flare-up symptoms from worsening. However, it’s helpful to touch base with your doctor before starting any at-home treatments.

If you want to learn more about the different treatment options for eczema, check out our Complete Guide to Eczema Treatment.

Eczema is a skin condition that causes severe itching and dryness, which can lead to other symptoms like discolored skin, scaly patches, painful bumps, and open wounds.

Eczema isn’t contagious to other people, but the rash can spread to other parts of your own body during a flare-up.

Several treatment options are effective for helping people with eczema manage their symptoms and prevent them from getting worse.