Let's talk about Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)

What is eczema (atopic dermatitis)?

Normally, the skin holds on to moisture and provides a protective barrier against allergens and microbes like bacteria. In atopic dermatitis (the most common type of eczema), the skin barrier is impaired, which causes the skin to lose moisture. This can lead to dry, discolored, and itchy skin. In people with darker skin, the affected area may be dark brown, purple, or gray. In people with lighter skin, the affected area may be red and easier to recognize.

Two hands with cracks that are labeled “dry” and “itchy”. The darker skin hand has dark spots labeled “brown, purple, or gray”. The lighter skin hand has red spots labeled “red”.

How can eczema impact your health?

People with eczema may experience skin infections and poor sleep quality due to the discomfort from itching. Depression and anxiety are more common in people with eczema, especially in those with severe forms of eczema. In addition, because people with eczema have a heightened immune response to common allergens, they are more likely to develop allergies and asthma.

People with eczema may experience skin infections, poor sleep quality, depression, and allergies.

Is eczema genetic? 

Genetics does play a role in eczema. This means some people will be more likely to develop it based on their genetics.

Did you know?

In addition to family history, your age and ethnicity can also impact your chances of developing eczema. This condition typically begins during infancy or childhood but can occur at any age. For some people, symptoms resolve before adulthood. For others, symptoms continue to come and go (flares).

African American and Asian American children are more likely to develop more severe forms of eczema. This may be due in part to delayed diagnosis because eczema can sometimes be missed in people with darker skin.

Explore more  

Interested in learning how your genetics may be related to eczema? You can get the Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis) report (Powered by 23andMe Research) through the 23andMe+ membership. 23andMe+ includes everything in our Health + Ancestry Service plus new premium reports and features throughout the year.

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Please note:

  • The Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis) report does not diagnose eczema and should not be used to make medical decisions.
  • The report was developed by 23andMe scientists using data and insights gathered from thousands of customers who consent to participate in our research. Reports based on 23andMe research provide an estimate of your likelihood of developing a condition based on your genetics and other factors. This report does not account for lifestyle or family history.
  • The report does not account for every possible genetic variant that could affect your likelihood of developing eczema.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). “QuickStats: Percentage of Children Aged ≤17 Years with Eczema or Any Kind of Skin Allergy, by Selected Races/Ethnicities — National Health Interview Survey, United States, 2000–2010.” Retrieved May 18, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6044a9.htm.

Eichenfield LF et al. (2014). “Guidelines of care for the management of atopic dermatitis: section 1. Diagnosis and assessment of atopic dermatitis.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 70(2):338-51. 

Eichenfield LF et al. (2014). “Guidelines of care for the management of atopic dermatitis: section 2. Management and treatment of atopic dermatitis with topical therapies.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 71(1):116-32. 

Katoh N et al. (2019). “Clinical practice guidelines for the management of atopic dermatitis 2018.” J Dermatol. 46(12):1053-1101. 

Kaufman BP et al. (2018). “Atopic dermatitis in diverse racial and ethnic groups-Variations in epidemiology, genetics, clinical presentation and treatment.” Exp Dermatol. 27(4):340-357.

Mayo Clinic. “Atopic dermatitis (eczema).” Retrieved May 18, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/atopic-dermatitis-eczema/symptoms-causes/syc-20353273. 

Silverberg JI et al. (2013). “Adult eczema prevalence and associations with asthma and other health and demographic factors: a US population-based study.” J Allergy Clin Immunol. 132(5):1132-8. 

Wollenberg A et al. (2018). “Consensus-based European guidelines for treatment of atopic eczema (atopic dermatitis) in adults and children: part I.” J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 32(5):657-682. 

Wong ITY et al. (2017). “Guidelines for the management of atopic dermatitis (eczema) for pharmacists.” Can Pharm J (Ott). 150(5):285-297.