Eczema symptoms tend to last for a few weeks at a time. Acute eczema may resolve completely after treatment, while chronic eczema may recurrently flare up throughout your life.
Eczema symptoms tend to last for a few weeks at a time. Acute eczema may resolve completely after treatment, while chronic eczema may resolve and occasionally flare up again throughout your life.
Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is an inflammatory skin condition that affects about 16.5 million adults in the United States. It develops due to an immune system reaction to various substances, ranging from allergens (substances that cause an allergic reaction) to chemicals.
Eczema creates rashes that may appear red or pink on light skin or darker brown, purple, or even gray on darker skin tones. Eczema rashes may also be:
- sore or painful
For some, eczema is considered a chronic (lifelong) condition, with flare-ups taking a few weeks to subside with treatment. Many people — especially children — can expect their symptoms to subside with age.
While you won’t necessarily have a particular eczema rash forever, you may be at risk for flare-ups whenever you encounter your eczema triggers (substances that bring on a flare-up).
Eczema flares can last from a few days to a few weeks. The healing time from eczema ultimately depends on the underlying cause.
For example, eczema symptoms relating to irritant exposure may heal quickly once you remove the irritant, whereas allergic triggers may result in longer-lasting flares.
You can work with a medical professional to establish flare management techniques that may speed recovery. However, it’s important to track the duration of symptoms, as regularly longer-lasting episodes may indicate a need to improve your treatments.
Does eczema go away?
There’s no known cure for eczema, and the rashes won’t simply go away if left untreated. For most people, eczema is a chronic condition that requires careful avoidance of triggers to help prevent flare-ups.
Age is also a factor; about 60% of people with eczema develop it as infants. If you develop eczema as a child, then you may experience improved symptoms as you get older.
Eczema can be broken down into three stages which involve different changes in your skin barrier:
- Acute: Short-term eczema may result from skin sensitivities after coming into contact with an irritating substance. Acute cases last just a few weeks as your skin heals.
- Subacute: This is part of the healing phase of eczema, which can still flare back up into a full rash if left untreated.
- Chronic: This is the most common stage of eczema, often developing in children before they’re 12 months old. Chronic eczema generally lasts over a lifetime with occasional flare-ups, although childhood eczema may improve with age.
While there’s no known cure for eczema, you can help reduce the occurrence of flare-ups through the following preventative measures.
Avoid your triggers
The best way you can prevent an eczema flare-up is to avoid your triggers when possible. These include any known allergens, as well as sensitivities to chemicals or fabrics.
Stress and hormones can also cause flare-ups or make them worse.
Protect your skin
Protecting your skin’s barrier with moisturizing creams is important, especially after bathing. Use a lotion that’s free of preservatives and fragrances.
If you have open wounds, be sure to protect your skin with bandages.
Another way you can protect your skin is by avoiding the temptation to scratch any eczema rashes that do develop.
Itching and scratching eczema causes the body to release inflammatory mediators — cells that can trigger further symptoms. The release of inflammatory mediators leads to more eczema and drier skin, leading to more itching and scratching. People refer to this as the itch-scratch cycle.
Control the heat and humidity
While eczema itself can sometimes be dry, this skin condition typically worsens with heat and humidity. Consider keeping your home a bit drier and cooler as a way of managing and preventing flare-ups.
Some people, however, experience flare-ups during the dry winter months. If this is you, using a humidifier can help ease your eczema symptoms.
Body heat can also play a role. Wearing breathable fabrics such as cotton can help heat escape from your body. Taking cool showers after workouts may also help.
The exact cause of eczema is
Allergic reactions to pollen, pet dander, and foods are common eczema triggers. Another possible cause of eczema is physical contact with chemicals, fabrics, and dyes to which you may be allergic.
- soaps or detergents with preservatives and dyes
- plants, such as poison ivy
- rubbing alcohol
While eczema isn’t a contagious disease, it does tend to run in families. You may be especially likely to have it if a parent or other relative has a history of allergies, asthma, and related eczema symptoms.
Digestive issues and food sensitivities can also play a role, although their links to eczema aren’t as well established.
Eczema treatment will vary depending on your underlying triggers. A doctor may recommend one or a combination of the following:
- Antihistamines: Over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines may help reduce the incidence of eczema. These medications maybe help prevent the urge to scratch rashes, especially in children.
- Allergy shots: For severe allergies that don’t respond well to medications, a doctor may recommend allergen immunotherapy or “allergy shots.” These shots are composed of small amounts of the substances to which you’re allergic.
- Biologic therapy: These targeted therapies reduce the body’s immune response to eczema triggers. Biologic therapies are injectable medications for moderate-to-severe cases of eczema.
- Phototherapy: Phototherapy involves targeted exposure to different wavelengths of ultraviolet light. Doctors can use phototherapy to target specific areas, such as the hands or the whole body, if eczema is widespread.
Aside from moisturizing your skin, some natural treatments may help heal your skin.
Oatmeal baths are one type of natural treatment that can soothe the itchiness and discomfort of eczema rashes. Be sure to use lukewarm water and follow up with a moisturizer immediately after.
There’s some evidence that both probiotics and prebiotics may stabilize your microbiome to help treat inflammation. However, more research is needed to support this approach in eczema treatment.
For most people, eczema is a lifelong condition that consists of occasional flare-ups. Once treated, it can take several weeks for rashes to clear up.
Eczema onset is more common in children, but adult-onset eczema typically has more severe symptoms. There’s also a good chance that childhood eczema improves with age.
For more information about treatments that can ease your eczema symptoms, talk with your doctor.