The symptoms of eczema can vary and may not be the same for everyone. In some cases, different types of eczema can develop on different parts of your body at various times.

“Eczema” is a term for multiple conditions that cause itching, inflammation, or rash-like patches on the skin. It’s common: More than 31 million people in the United States have it, according to the National Eczema Association.

Much of the information about eczema is how the symptoms appear on lighter skin. But eczema on darker skin can look different.

In people with black or brown skin, scratching the itchy skin can also lead to hyperpigmentation in affected areas. Hyperpigmentation is when skin becomes darker than the surrounding skin.

On the other hand, inflammation can sometimes cause depigmentation on darker skin. This is when skin loses color and becomes lighter than the surrounding skin.

Knowing the symptoms of eczema can help determine whether you need to talk with a doctor for a definitive diagnosis and treatment.

The hallmark of eczema is itchy and inflamed skin. Several skin conditions fall under the category of eczema, so other symptoms may also be present.

These symptoms can include:

  • itching
  • dry skin
  • inflamed or discolored skin
  • pigment changes in darker skin
  • rougher skin
  • oozing or crusting
  • swelling
baby with symptoms of eczemaShare on Pinterest
Engdao Wichitpunya/Getty Images

Eczema looks different in babies and toddlers than in older children and adults. In babies 6 months and younger with lighter skin, eczema may look red and a little wet or oozy.

In babies 6 months and younger with darker skin, eczema may look purple or gray. Their skin may also be very itchy.

Between 6 and 12 months old, eczema typically forms on areas of the body that babies use for crawling. It can look red or purple and inflamed. If infected, it may have a yellow crust on it.

In toddlers under age 5 years, eczema usually affects the face. On lighter skin, it can look red and bumpy. On darker skin, it can look purplish or darker than surrounding skin.

Eczema in toddlers can also look scaly and dry. You may notice deep lines on their skin.

In children over 5 years old, eczema may look red and itchy or rash-looking on lighter skin. It may also look like permanent goosebumps and be thicker. On darker skin, the thickening may be hyperpigmented.

Skin concerns may be a symptom of a different condition, so visiting a dermatologist can help determine whether the cause is eczema or something else.

Certain body areas are more likely to be affected by eczema than others. This can change depending on your age.

Where is eczema on babies?

In babies, eczema is often found on the scalp and face, particularly the cheeks. It’s most often found on the head, but it can develop anywhere. However, it does not typically occur in the diaper area.

A baby may rub their face or head on the carpet or their bedsheets to scratch the itchy skin. This can further irritate the skin and lead to infection.

As babies start to crawl, their eczema may be more frequently seen on their elbows or knees. This is because these areas are prone to rubbing as they crawl.

In toddlers, eczema may often be seen on their face, around their mouth, or on their eyelids. It may also be on wrists, elbow creases, and knees.

Where is eczema on children?

In older children, eczema typically appears:

  • in their elbow and knee folds
  • on their hands
  • behind their ears
  • on their feet or scalp

Sometimes other skin conditions can affect these areas, so it’s best to talk with a doctor for a definitive diagnosis.

Where is eczema in adults?

In adults, common places for eczema include:

  • arms
  • hands
  • inner elbows and backs of knees
  • head (especially cheeks and scalp)

Diagnosing eczema can be tricky sometimes.

Other skin conditions, like psoriasis, can look like eczema. A dermatologist can tell the difference.

The underlying causes of psoriasis and eczema are different:

  • Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition. This means the immune system is not working as it should and skin cells grow too fast, piling up.
  • Eczema is more complicated, and its cause is unknown. Both genetic and environmental factors may be involved.

Psoriasis itching tends to be mild, whereas the itching associated with eczema can be intense.

In older adults, eczema is usually on the backs of the knees and inside the elbows. Psoriasis is often found on the scalp, elbows, knees, buttocks, and face.

In children, eczema is more common than psoriasis.

Aside from psoriasis, other skin conditions can look like eczema. Knowing the underlying cause and identifying the condition correctly is the best way to get appropriate treatment.

A dermatologist can diagnose the condition based on:

  • your reported symptoms
  • what they can visually see
  • any tests they order

Other conditions that may look similar to eczema include:

There is no cure for eczema, but treatment and home remedies can manage symptoms. By working with a dermatologist or allergist, you can help reduce your chances of flare-ups and minimize symptoms.

Treatment is based on three concepts, according to the National Eczema Association:

  • knowing eczema triggers to avoid them
  • creating a daily bathing and moisturizing regimen
  • using over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medication as prescribed or as needed

There is no one way to treat eczema. Specific treatment plans can consider the type of eczema you have, your age, and the severity of the condition. What works for one person may not work for another.

Most important for babies, children, and adults alike is to have a regular bathing and moisturizing routine. This helps keep water in your skin and control flares. Your doctor can provide techniques based on your specific situation.

Knowing what triggers eczema flares can help you avoid anything that would cause a flare-up or irritation.

Medication may be OTC or prescription depending on the type and severity of your eczema.

OTC medications can include:

Prescription treatments can include:

  • topical medications
  • phototherapy (light therapy)
  • JAK inhibitors, which are Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved for eczema and are available in both topical and oral versions
  • immunosuppressants, which are not FDA approved but often prescribed off-label for moderate to severe eczema
  • biologic drugs, which target only specific parts of the immune system and should only be used in people ages 6 years and older

For children, according to 2020 research, dietary guidelines may help if there is a food-related allergy that triggers eczema. If the outbreaks are stress-related, therapy may be helpful.

Even without a cure, you can treat eczema in various ways. If one treatment doesn’t work, talk with your doctor about trying another.

More and more research is being done on possible treatments. By following your doctor’s treatment plan and lifestyle strategies, you can help minimize symptoms of eczema and manage skin irritation.

Symptoms of eczema can vary depending on the type of eczema and your age.

Sometimes other skin conditions, like psoriasis, can mimic symptoms of eczema, so it’s always a good idea to visit a dermatologist to get an accurate diagnosis.

Once a correct diagnosis is made, it determines which treatment may work best for you.