How is eczema (atopic dermatitis) diagnosed? What tests are done?

Your healthcare provider will take a close look at your skin. They will look for classic signs of eczema such as a redness and dryness. They will ask about the symptoms you’re experiencing.

Usually your healthcare provider will be able to diagnose eczema based on examining your skin. However, when there is doubt, they may perform the following tests:

  • An allergy skin test.
  • Blood tests to check for causes of the rash that might be unrelated to dermatitis.
  • A skin biopsy to distinguish one type of dermatitis from another.

What questions might my healthcare provider ask to diagnose eczema?

The conversation with your healthcare provider will need to cover a lot of information. Be sure to be specific about your symptoms.

  • Where is your eczema located?
  • What have you used to try to treat your eczema?
  • What medical conditions do you have? Allergies? Asthma?
  • Is there a history of eczema in your family?
  • How long have you had symptoms of eczema?
  • Do you take hot showers?
  • Is there anything that makes your symptoms worse?
  • Have you noticed that something triggers or worsens your eczema? Soaps? Detergents? Cigarette smoke?
  • Is there so much itchiness that you have trouble sleeping? Working? Living your normal life?

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/28/2020.

References

  • NIH: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Atopic Dermatitis. Accessed 10/20/2020.
  • Eichenfield LF, Wynnis LT, Chamlin SL, et al. Guidelines of care for the management of atopic dermatitis: Section 1. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2014;70:388. Accessed 10/20/2020.
  • National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. What Is Atopic Dermatitis? Accessed 10/20/2020.'
  • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Skin Care at Home. Accessed 10/20/2020.
  • American Academy of Dermatology. What is eczema? Accessed 10/20/2020.
  • Katta R, Schlichte M. Diet and Dermatitis: Food Triggers. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. 2014;7(3)-30-36. Accessed 10/20/2020.

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