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Eczema (cont.)

When to Seek Medical Care for Eczema

If twice daily applications of 0.5% or 1% hydrocortisone cream (available without a prescription) are insufficient to control the rash, then the individual should see a physician.

If someone is so uncomfortable that his/her sleep, work, or other daily activities are disrupted, he/she needs a more effective treatment and should see a health-care professional.

Generally, eczematous dermatitis is not an emergency and should not be handled in a hospital emergency department. Exceptions include the following:

  • When the skin becomes so irritated that it breaks down and becomes infected; if the rash has become red, hot, and painful; if red streaks are coming from the rash; or if the individual has a fever, an emergency department visit may be necessary if it's not possible to see a health-care professional within 24 hours.
  • Any person with a weakened immune system or certain medical conditions (such as diabetes, on chemotherapy, alcoholism, AIDS, older than 70 years of age) and the above symptoms of infection should go immediately to a hospital emergency department.

Eczema Diagnosis

A medical professional can usually identify the type of eczematous dermatitis by looking at the rash and asking questions about how it appeared. Samples of scale from the rash may need to be examined microscopically to search for a fungus. Occasionally, a portion of skin may be removed (a biopsy) to be examined by a pathologist, but this will not distinguish atopic dermatitis from allergic contact dermatitis.

The three key elements in identifying atopic dermatitis are

  • characteristic appearance and distribution of a chronic rash;
  • severe itching;
  • atopy, or a personal or family tendency toward asthma and hay fever.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/12/2015
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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Dyshidrotic Eczema »

Dyshidrotic eczema is a recurrent or chronic relapsing form of vesicular palmoplantar dermatitis of unknown etiology.

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