Eczema is the term for a group of common conditions that cause the skin to become inflamed or irritated. Eczema can sometimes cause temporary changes in pigmentation, which people may refer to as scars.

Eczema affects about 31.6 million people in the United States. The symptoms can vary among individuals, but they often include itchy, dry skin with swollen, weeping, and crusty patches.

Some people might also notice pigmentation changes, or dyspigmentation, in the skin once eczema has settled down. This symptom may resemble an eczema scar, but the skin will regain its usual appearance in time.

Learning more about what causes the skin to erupt and itch can help people treat eczema and prevent it from getting worse.

eczema rash on a person's elbowShare on Pinterest
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Changes in pigmentation are generally the result of damage to the skin.

In the case of eczema, this condition can cause such severe itching that people scratch their skin until it bleeds, putting them at risk of infection. All of this damage to the skin can contribute to dyspigmentation as eczema heals.

The intolerable itching is often due to flare-ups, during which symptoms worsen. Many different environmental factors can cause flare-ups, but common triggers include:

  • dust mites
  • cold weather
  • animal dander from household pets
  • rough or wool clothing, plus clothes made from polyester or nylon
  • pollen
  • mold
  • household cleaners
  • tobacco
  • laundry detergent
  • chlorine in swimming pools
  • sun exposure
  • sunscreen

The chronic itching may become so severe that it causes other problems, such as:

  • loss of sleep
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • infections
  • the “itch-scratch-itch cycle,” where itching leads to scratching, which leads to itching, and so on

Damage to the skin, possibly resulting in pigmentation changes, can be the end result of this cycle.

People with eczema can work with their healthcare team to develop a treatment plan that lowers their risk of experiencing temporary skin pigmentation changes.

Treatment for eczema generally involves:

  • identifying and avoiding triggers that make eczema worse
  • bathing and moisturizing regularly, using mild or hypoallergenic products
  • using over-the-counter medication, such as hydrocortisone cream or oral antihistamines
  • monitoring the skin for infections and treating them promptly
  • using prescription steroid creams

It is common for people with skin conditions such as eczema to consider alternative or complementary treatments, but experts recommend speaking with a healthcare professional before trying them.

The reason for this is that there is a lack of scientific evidence to support these practices and show how they affect users, particularly children.

Researchers have found that the following medicinal plants may help treat eczema:

  • oatmeal
  • aloe vera
  • turmeric
  • chamomile

However, more research is necessary to confirm their effectiveness.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health report that there is little to no evidence to support the use of the following for treating eczema:

  • evening primrose oil
  • borage oil
  • multivitamin supplements
  • zinc
  • probiotics

People can minimize the extent of pigmentation changes by refraining from scratching the skin during an eczema flare-up. Although dyspigmentation occurs as part of the flare-up, scratching can make it worse.

The best way to avoid changes in pigmentation is to take steps to manage eczema and prevent flare-ups.

People may be able to do this by:

  • taking short baths or showers in lukewarm, but never hot, water
  • using fragrance-free or hypoallergenic skin care and bathing products
  • testing any new skin products on a small area of skin before applying them more extensively
  • moisturizing the skin regularly and frequently
  • avoiding extreme temperatures
  • wearing loose fitting clothing
  • using hypoallergenic, or fragrance- and dye-free, detergent to wash clothes
  • washing new clothes before wearing them
  • choosing clothes made from cotton and other natural breathable fabrics and avoiding wearing wool next to the skin

People can also try to identify any other personal triggers of eczema flare-ups and avoid these where possible.

Although there is no cure for eczema, seeking treatment can help people find relief and learn how to manage their symptoms more effectively.

It is advisable to see a doctor for evaluation if the following symptoms develop in children or adults:

  • itchy and painful skin
  • skin rash
  • bleeding or oozing skin
  • pus-filled bumps on the skin
  • skin infections
  • numerous deep lines in the palm
  • mental health issues

Anyone who finds that dyspigmentation due to eczema is affecting their quality of life should consider seeing a dermatologist.

Dermatologists can help people improve the appearance of their skin and limit the impact of future eczema flare-ups.

Eczema refers to a group of common skin conditions that cause uncomfortable symptoms, including itching. Some people may notice temporary changes in pigmentation in the affected areas of skin, which may resemble scarring.

There is no cure for eczema, but effective management can help keep the symptoms under control. Treatment typically involves identifying and avoiding triggers for eczema flare-ups, following a healing skin care routine, and using medication according to a doctor’s instructions.

Following a treatment plan can help reduce the damage to the skin, lowering the chance of dyspigmentation.