Eczema Duration: How Long Does The Skin Condition Last?

The itchy, rashy patches that affect skin with eczema can be bothersome at best and agonizing at worst. According to the National Eczema Association (NEA), eczema or dermatitis affects more than 31 million Americans.

This skin disease is more than simply dryness. “Eczema is a rash that the body produces that results in varied skin dysfunction that does not allow the skin barrier to stay intact. As a result, the barrier breaks down into this itchy rash,” explains Edidiong Kaminska, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with Kaminska Dermatology in Chicago.

If you have eczema or have been diagnosed with the skin condition, you may be wondering if there’s hope it will disappear with time or if it’s something that will stick with you for the long haul that you will have to actively manage. Here’s what doctors know.

Does Eczema Go Away on Its Own?

Eczema can start at any time during your life and can range from moderate to severe, notes the NEA. Although the skin condition is common, learning you have it can be truly upsetting. There are several types of eczema, ranging from atopic dermatitis (which is what people most associate with eczema) and seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff, or scalp eczema) to contact dermatitis (when your skin reacts to, say, using a new soap) and more.

When it comes to atopic dermatitis, the disease is chronic. Jonathan Silverberg, MD, PhD, an associate professor of dermatology at The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, DC, notes that a chronic disease means that symptoms stick around for six months or more — but they can also last a lifetime. “Diagnosing a patient with eczema is a difficult conversation to have,” he says.

Stories of Atopic Dermatitis

While symptoms of contact dermatitis disappear once you avoid the offending irritant, it’s tough to say when atopic dermatitis will go away — or if it ever will. If your child has atopic dermatitis (also called baby eczema), there’s a chance that the disease will calm down considerably by the time they’re an adult, says Dr. Silverberg. More severe cases, however, are also more likely to persist.

How Long Do Eczema Flare-Ups Typically Last?

The length of a flare-up will depend on what type of eczema you have, as well as the severity of the flare. With proper treatment, flare-ups may last one to three weeks, notes Harvard Health Publishing.

Chronic eczema such as atopic dermatitis can go into remission with the help of a good preventative treatment plan. “Remission” means that the disease is not active and you remain free of symptoms. Periods of remission can last for weeks or even years, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

What Are the Different Stages of Eczema?

Eczema can be broken down into three stages, says Dr. Kaminska: acute, subacute, and chronic:


This type of eczema presents as red, weepy patches, she explains.


This is the “typical rash people think of,” says Kaminska, as it’s dry, red, itchy, and scaly.


Over time, the skin can thicken “like armor” to protect against infection, she explains.

Your treatment will depend on the stage and severity of the rash, says Kaminska. Mild flare-ups may require over-the-counter (OTC) care, such as ceramide- or hyaluronic acid–rich creams or colloidal oatmeal baths. Moderate atopic dermatitis, and sometimes even mild atopic dermatitis, may need a step-up to an OTC hydrocortisone cream.

Moderate to severe eczema needs dermatologist care, particularly because cracks and fissures that result from the breakdown of the skin barrier are prone to infection. Your dermatologist may suggest a prescription-strength cortisone or non-cortisone anti-inflammatory cream; phototherapy, or light therapy; or a biologic injectable medication like Dupixent (dupilumab), Kaminska says.

Prevention of Flare-Ups

The first thing you want to do when you have atopic dermatitis is to practice what’s called gentle skin care, says Kaminska. Part of this is keeping showers to 5 to 10 minutes in lukewarm water, washing with a gentle, fragrance- and scent-free cleanser, and slathering on moisturizer right after bathing, when skin is still damp.

Other factors, such as avoiding cigarette smoke, limiting contact with household cleaners, and avoiding other common irritants, like nickel and wool or polyester fabrics, can also help, according to the NEA. Many patients find that stress flares their eczema, so stress management can play an important role in overall skin health.

Causes of Itchy, Red Skin That Happens With Eczema

The cause of eczema is multifactorial. “There is both a genetic and environmental component to eczema,” says Kaminska. Some of these factors are out of your control. For example, you can’t change your genetics. As the Cleveland Clinic points out, eczema is caused by:

  • An overreactive immune system
  • Genetics: This includes a family history of asthma or allergies.
  • Environmental factors such as irritants and hot and dry air
  • Stress

Is There a Cure for Eczema, or Will I Have This Skin Condition Forever?

Gentle skin care, avoidance of triggers, and, if needed, medicated management can help keep symptoms at bay. But you may have eczema, such as atopic dermatitis, throughout your life.

Addressing the skin disease with a short- and long-term view will care for your skin and health best. “We want to recognize that aside from the need to reduce itch and pain, we have to improve a patient’s quality of life. There is a lot of harm that comes from uncontrolled, untreated skin disease,” says Silverberg. For example, itch and pain can cause sleep deprivation that has a cascade effect on overall health.

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