Eczema is a skin condition characterized by itchy and inflamed skin. It is a common condition that’s also called atopic dermatitis.
It can occur at any age but is common in babies and younger children. There are different types of eczema, and various skin conditions can mimic eczema, so appropriate diagnosis is important to receive effective treatment.
A dermatologist can help provide expert diagnosis and guidance on treatment. They can also prescribe any medication that you may need.
A dermatologist is a doctor who focuses on conditions that affect the skin, hair, and nails. They see patients of all ages, treat over 3,000 different conditions, and many specialize in treating specific conditions like cancer and patient groups like People of Color.
A pediatric dermatologist has specialized training in treating children with conditions affecting their skin, hair, or nails.
There are three boards that provide certification in dermatology in North America:
- American Board of Dermotology
- American Osteopathic Board of Dermatology
- Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada
To be board certified, a dermatologist must pass an exam from one of these boards to test their medical knowledge and expertise.
Following board certification, a dermatologist may choose to become a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, the largest organization of dermatologists in the United States. A dermatologist who is a fellow will have “FAAD” after their name.
There are various types of eczema and atopic dermatitis that can be difficult to differentiate.
Because a dermatologist specializes in skin conditions, they can provide specific help for eczema with diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up care. Some dermatologists may have atopic dermatitis clinics, but all dermatologists are qualified to treat eczema.
Tools for diagnosis include:
First and foremost, a dermatologist will look at your skin and closely examine the affected areas. A dermatologist can often identify what skin condition you have during this exam.
At your first appointment, you’ll be asked questions about your medical and family history. This can help your dermatologist diagnose your condition even if you don’t have an active flare-up or rash at your visit.
These questions may include things like:
- Do you have an immediate family member with eczema, allergies, or asthma?
- Can you describe your symptoms?
- When do these symptoms seem to happen most?
- How long have you had this rash or skin condition?
- Where does the rash or condition appear on your body?
Patch testing (for allergic dermatitis)
In a patch test, various suspected allergens are taped to the skin to see if there is a reaction. A dermatologist can test for many potential allergens at the same time.
During a skin biopsy, the dermatologist will numb the area and then remove a very small piece of skin in the affected area. The sample will be sent to a dermatology lab for analysis. A skin biopsy may be used to help diagnose eczema caused by allergies or as a reaction to a medication.
Eczema management consists of several treatment options including:
- identifying and avoiding your eczema triggers
- developing a consistent bathing and moisturizing routine
- using over-the-counter and/or prescription medications
- monitoring for signs of infection
A dermatologist can provide you with suggestions about soaps and moisturizers, as well as guidance on over-the-counter topical creams. If a prescription is necessary, they will prescribe medication that is most appropriate for you and your specific kind of eczema. If your skin becomes infected, they will be able to examine the infection and treat it accordingly.
Medications that may be used to treat eczema include:
- Topicals. Ointments, creams, or lotions are all considered topicals, and they may include ingredients like steroids to help relieve symptoms and reduce eczema flares.
- Oral medications. Corticosteroids, antihistamines, anti-inflammatories, and antibiotics are oral medications that may be used to treat eczema.
- Injectables. Some people may be prescribed biological medications or biologics to treat eczema. Biologics are genetically engineered injectable products that are produced by or contain components of living organisms that help prevent or stop the inflammatory response that causes eczema.
- Phototherapy. During phototherapy, various types of ultraviolet light are used to help stop eczema that covers large areas on the body. Phototherapy may help stop itching and inflammation.
There is no cure for eczema, but it can be treated and managed. You may experience flare-ups from time to time. Your dermatologist can help determine any treatment plan changes or medication changes.
Read this for more information about treating severe eczema.
It’s important when choosing a dermatologist to find one with expertise in your condition and skin type. Tips for finding a good dermatologist include asking questions like:
- Are you board certified in dermatology?
- Do you have experience treating eczema?
- Do you have experience treating People of Color?
- Do you have experience with treating eczema in children?
- Do you take my insurance?
Here are resources to help you find a dermatologist:
- Black Dermatologist Directory
- American Academy of Dermatology Association
- Society for Pediatric Dermatology
Read this article for more information about finding the right dermatologist for you and your family.
If you have eczema, a dermatologist is essential for helping to treat and manage it. If your child has eczema or if you are a Person of Color, a dermatologist can provide specialized care.
Dermatologists can appropriately diagnose eczema, as well as prescribe the best treatment for the type you have.