“Eczema” is the ultimate wastebasket term–it refers to any condition that makes the skin red, itchy, and inflamed. So simply knowing you have eczema doesn’t give you all the information you need about how to treat it; managing it requires figuring out what type of eczema you have.
Atopic dermatitis, the most common kind of eczema, usually begins in childhood. It’s the culprit when children have persistent red, roughened patches on their cheeks (so they look even more like little dolls!), but it can also cause itchy patches on the inside bend of the knees and elbows, and on the hands, feet, ankles, eyelids, and other spots. It’s caused by a gene variant that makes skin less able to retain moisture, leaving it more easily aggravated by things in the environment. In adults, contact dermatitis is common—as the name suggests, that occurs when you come into contact with something that bothers your skin, either because you’re allergic to it or because it’s just plain irritating. A poison ivy rash is eczema of the allergic variety. “Dishpan hands” are reddened and scaly from exposure to irritating household cleansers.