Diagnosing atopic eczema 

Your GP will usually be able to diagnose atopic eczema by assessing the skin and asking questions about your symptoms.

These questions may include:

  • whether the rash is itchy and where it appears
  • when the symptoms first began
  • whether you have flare-ups of severe symptoms  
  • whether there is a history of atopic eczema in your family
  • whether you have any other conditions, such as allergies or asthma

Tell your GP if your condition is affecting your quality of life, for example if you have difficulty sleeping because of itching or it is limiting your daily activities.

Checklist for diagnosing atopic eczema

Typically, to be diagnosed with atopic eczema you must have had an itchy skin condition in the last 12 months, as well as three or more of the signs and symptoms described below:

  • You have itchiness and irritation in the creases of your skin, such as the inside of your elbows, behind your knees, your ankles, around your neck or around your eyes.
  • Your skin has been generally dry in the last 12 months.
  • You have or have had asthma or hay fever. For children under the age of four, they must have an immediate relative, such as a parent, brother or sister, who has asthma or hay fever.
  • There is eczema in the creases of your skin, or on the forehead, cheeks, arms or legs in children under the age of four.
  • In children over four and adults, the condition started at the age of two or before.

Establishing triggers

Your GP should work with you to establish what triggers make your eczema worse. You may be asked about your diet and lifestyle to see if something obvious may be contributing to your symptoms. For example, you may have noticed that some soaps or shampoos make the eczema worse.

Read more about potential triggers and causes of atopic eczema.

You may also be asked to keep a food diary to try to determine whether a specific food makes your symptoms worse.

A food diary involves writing down everything you eat and making a record of any eczema flare-ups you have. Your GP can then use the diary to see if there is a pattern between your symptoms and what you eat.

Page last reviewed: 21/11/2012

Next review due: 21/11/2014