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Dermatitis and Eczema: Know the Signs and Symptoms of This Common Skin Condition

It can be tough to distinguish whether you’re suffering from dry skin or eczema, especially in the early stages. Here are a few key signs and symptoms to watch out for if you suspect you may have eczema.


Are Eczema and Dermatitis the Same Thing?

Before we get into eczema symptoms, it’s important to note that this condition is also sometimes referred to as dermatitis. While technically, the two are different, many people use the terms eczema and dermatitis interchangeably. In short, both terms refer to inflammation of the skin. Regardless of what you call the condition, it’s important to be able to identify common signs and symptoms.

Dry Skin

This is the most common eczema symptom. Most often, there will be patches of dry skin on one or more parts of your body. Unfortunately, it can be tough to distinguish dry skin alone as a symptom of eczema, especially during harsh, dry seasons like winter. If you start experiencing patches of dry skin, make a note of whether they go away with the use of a moisturizer or not. Stubborn patches of dry skin may require a special eczema cream to treat properly.


Itchy patches of skin are another telltale sign of eczema. It’s one thing if you have a small itch and your skin isn’t inflamed at all, but patches of eczema may cause severe itching, especially at night. This is typically a result of skin irritation from your sheets. If you’re experiencing this eczema symptom, the most important thing to remember is not to scratch! Doing so could damage already-inflamed skin and lead to a potential skin infection. Intense itching is definitely a sign that you need to see a dermatologist for a proper examination and diagnosis.

Red or Brown Patches of Skin

If you notice red or brown-gray patches on your skin, it may be the result of eczema. These patches tend to appear most often on areas such as the hands, feet, ankles, wrists, upper chest, and inside the crook of the elbows or knees. In infants, you can most commonly find these patches on the face and scalp. It’s especially important to note whether these red patches go away or if they stay on your skin for long periods of time. For example, a little bit of redness on your chest after a shower is normal, especially if the water was quite hot. But if that redness persists and appears without the hot water, you may want to see a dermatologist.

Thickened or Scaly Skin

Thickened or scaly patches of skin are indicative of skin inflammation. They are a more severe form of eczema rash, and scratching or picking at them could lead to skin infections. This is a sure sign of an eczema flare-up, and you should see a dermatologist as soon as possible if you’re encountering them for the first time.

The first step in getting the right eczema treatment is understanding the symptoms. If you’ve experienced any of the symptoms listed above, it could be time to see a dermatologist. Make an appointment at North Pacific Dermatology today and let us help you find the right eczema treatment.

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