What Causes Eczema on Arms, Symptoms, and How to Treat It

Medically Reviewed By Joan Paul, MD, MPH, DTMH
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Eczema is a common skin condition that causes inflammation, dryness, and itchiness. It is possible to treat eczema on the arms with home remedies and medication. Eczema occurs due to genetic and environmental factors. The condition is not contagious, so you can’t contract eczema from being around or touching a person with it. 

Eczema is an umbrella term for a range of skin conditions and another name for atopic dermatitis or atopic eczema. Atopic dermatitis is the most common type of eczema.

This article discusses atopic eczema on the arms. It examines causes, symptoms, treatment options, and when to contact a doctor.

What causes eczema on the arms?

A person is moisturizing their arm.
Juan Moyano/Stocksy United

The exact cause of eczema is unclear. However, it may be due to genetic and environmental factors.

Genetic factors

There may be a possible genetic component to eczema. The filaggrin gene is responsible for organizing the outermost layer of the skin into tough, flat skin cells. Usually, the cells in the top layer of your skin are well organized and tightly packed together to form a barrier. 

Skin with a filaggrin gene mutation has disorganized cells. Because of this disorganization, water can get out, and harmful substances can get in more easily. The skin also has fewer defense peptides, which fight off infections. Without these, your skin may be more susceptible to infections.

Environmental factors

Environmental factors also play a role in triggering eczema. The condition may begin when an irritant or allergen sets off your immune system, such as:

  • tobacco smoke
  • air pollutants
  • fragranced products

These and other environmental factors may trigger an overactive immune response, causing inflammation and symptoms of eczema.

Eczema can start anywhere on your body and may look like an allergic reaction, poison ivy, or psoriasis

In infants, eczema is usually on the face. However, it can be anywhere in children and adults, including the arms.

What are the symptoms of eczema on the arms?

Eczema on the arms occurs in both children and adults. This can also include the wrists and elbows.

The most common symptoms of eczema on your arms include

  • dry skin
  • itchiness
  • rashes due to rubbing or itching the skin
  • thickened patches of skin
  • frequent skin infections due to scratching that allows bacteria more easily into the skin

Learn about symptoms never to ignore with eczema.

What are the treatments for eczema on the arms?

Treatments for eczema may include a combination of home remedies and medications.

Home remedies

Home remedies for eczema may include:

  • washing with soap-free cleansers
  • applying moisturizing ointment daily
  • applying a wet wrap to the affected skin and then covering it with a dry wrap
  • avoiding known triggers

Your doctor may ask you to keep track of anything causing flare-ups. Once you identify them, try to avoid them as much as possible. Some triggers that commonly cause flare-ups include:

  • environmental allergens
  • harsh soap
  • harsh laundry detergents
  • some fragrances
  • rough or non-breathable fabrics

Your primary care doctor may be able to treat your eczema in their office. However, they may send you to a dermatologist in more severe cases.

Discover more tips for soothing eczema.

Medical treatments

Medical treatments your doctor may recommend for eczema include:

  • topical corticosteroids
  • topical calcineurin inhibitors such as pimecrolimus and tacrolimus
  • topical phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitors
  • oral antihistamines to alleviate itchiness at night
  • injectable dupilumab (Dupixent) for moderate to severe cases of eczema
  • ultraviolet phototherapy if symptoms do not respond to other treatments

During flare-ups, a corticosteroid ointment is the best treatment. Use only topical steroids when you have active eczema. Your doctor may want you to apply them weekly to prevent flare-ups. However, using them daily can cause your skin to become thin or cause other skin conditions, such as acne or rebound eczema.

Talk with your doctor about your steroid ointments and how often you should use them.

Learn more about treatment options for eczema.

When should I see a doctor?

Contact your doctor if symptoms do not seem to be getting better with home remedies or if they worsen.

You should also contact your doctor if you get a skin infection.

Our eczema appointment guide can help you to prepare for your appointment.

How do doctors diagnose eczema on the arms?

Your doctor may be able to diagnose eczema on the arms by performing a physical exam and asking about your symptoms and medical history. In some cases, they may order a skin biopsy to rule out other possible causes.

Can I prevent eczema on the arms?

Finding your eczema triggers is crucial to preventing it. Once you know the triggers, you may be able to manage your symptoms or prevent flare-ups.

Common triggers include

  • pollen
  • pet dander
  • peanuts
  • stress
  • infection
  • some fabrics
  • some soaps
  • household cleaners

Learn more about common eczema triggers.

Frequently asked questions

Here are some more frequently asked questions about eczema on the arms.

Is eczema common on the arms?

Eczema on the arms is common in children and adults. Babies tend to have it more on their faces.

What can be mistaken for eczema?

Atopic eczema can resemble other conditions, such as skin fungal infections, psoriasis, scabies, and other types of eczema.

A doctor can evaluate your symptoms and confirm a diagnosis.

Is eczema a symptom of anything?

Eczema may occur alongside another condition, such as asthma, an allergy, or ichthyosis, which causes thickened, dry skin.

Contact your doctor if you experience eczema and are concerned that it may be occurring with another condition.

Learn more about conditions related to eczema.


Eczema, also known as atopic eczema or atopic dermatitis, is a chronic skin condition causing dry, itchy skin. It is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Your doctor or dermatologist may be able to diagnose the condition with a physical examination. Treatments focus on managing symptoms with home remedies and medication.

Contact your doctor if you have concerns about eczema. They will be able to confirm the diagnosis and advise on ways to help you to identify triggers, alleviate symptoms, and reduce the risk of a flare-up.

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Medical Reviewer: Joan Paul, MD, MPH, DTMH
Last Review Date: 2023 Mar 15
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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  6. Wet wrap therapy. (n.d.). https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/treatment/wet-wrap-therapy/