If you suffer from itchy red skin, it might be more serious than just dry skin. Atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, is a chronic condition that can become painful if not treated properly.

Atopic dermatitis is not contagious and usually begins during infancy. Eczema is a  common disease. According to the National Eczema Association, about 10 percent of all people are at some time affected by the disease. Flare-ups can be attributed to irritants, food allergies, emotional stress and climate. Eczema can be controlled by establishing a healthy skin care routine and learning how to manage stress.

Eczema is an itchy inflammation of the skin. It typically appears on the arms and behind the knees as scaly and itchy rashes. It can be caused by a hypersensitivity reaction in the skin and a weak immune system. Family history plays a role as well. The condition is most common in infants (many of whom outgrow it by adulthood). People who suffer from eczema often have asthma and hay fever, as well.

Symptoms can include oozing blisters, raw areas of the skin, skin redness and inflammation and thickened skin. If you suspect that you may suffer from this condition, see your health care provider to determine if it is eczema. A doctor will provide a diagnosis based on the appearance of the skin and a family history.

Developing a new skin regime can help alleviate eczema. Do not scratch a rash. Instead, use a cold compress to stop the itching. Try to keep the affected area moisturized by using creams and ointments free of alcohols, dyes, scents and other irritating chemicals. Watch for anything that might worsen symptoms. These can include certain foods, soaps and detergents, wool or sudden changes in temperature and stress.

Take short showers with cool water. Do not scrub or dry your skin forcefully, as this will further irritation. When your skin is still moist after washing, apply cream or lotion to help trap moisture in the skin. If your condition does not improve, visit a doctor. He or she can prescribe cortisone creams that can help. Stronger medications can include antihistamines or allergy shots. Be careful not to scratch by keeping yourself busy with other activities. Wear cotton clothing and avoid areas with low humidity. Most importantly, always make sure that your skin is adequately moisturized.