Dermatologist or Allergist for Eczema: Which Is Better?

Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that can cause a skin rash, itching, and dryness. There are seven different types of eczema, and more than 31 million Americans have this condition.

While an allergy does not always cause eczema, irritation from different chemicals, conditions, or even stressful situations can cause eczema to flare up.

This article reviews the different types of eczema and how both dermatologists and allergists may be needed to keep the condition under control.

A dermatologist is a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating skin conditions. A dermatologist has to finish 4 graduate years of medical school, followed by a 1-year internship in general medicine and a residency in dermatology. The dermatology residence is usually 3 years of specialized training.

Dermatologists help diagnose and treat disorders of the skin, hair, and nails, including eczema.

An immunologist – often called an allergist – is a doctor who specializes in the immune system. They diagnose and treat conditions ranging from allergies and asthma to immunodeficiencies and immunologic disorders.

Both allergists and dermatologists do allergy testing, but an allergist usually tests for seasonal or year-round allergens, while a dermatologist can usually test for contact allergies.

Allergens are usually inhaled or injected allergies, whereas contact allergies are things the skin comes into contact with that can cause contact dermatitis. Some allergists will test for both types of allergies.

An allergist has similar training to a dermatologist. In addition to 4 years of medical school, they must complete a 2-3 year residency in internal medicine and then another 2 years in immunology.

A dermatologist can help diagnose and treat eczema. Some dermatologists may be able to do patch testing in their clinic to help determine the possible cause of the eczema rash. Others may refer you to an allergist or to a dermatologist who specializes in allergic dermatitis.

A dermatologist can also help you manage symptoms of this condition. They may recommend the following things to help control your eczema:

An allergist may be able to help you identify triggers and recommend treatments to help manage your eczema.

Your allergist may perform a skin prick test or blood testing to help discover the allergens that are triggering your eczema. These tests can be used to help identify food, seasonal, or year-round allergies that may be contributing to your symptoms.

After identifying possible triggers, an allergist can prescribe medications to help manage symptoms.

Allergists can also offer immunotherapy, which is used to help build up the immune system’s response to allergens.

There are seven types of eczema, and each has its own types of symptoms and triggers.

The different types of eczema include:

Once eczema is suspected, your primary care doctor or other healthcare professional may refer you to a dermatologist to diagnose your condition and manage your symptoms or to an allergist to identify an allergy that may be triggering your symptoms.

The following conditions are not usually caused by an allergen:

  • neurodermatitis
  • nummular eczema
  • seborrheic dermatitis
  • stasis dermatitis

If you’re diagnosed with one of these conditions, you should be referred to a dermatologist.

For most people with eczema, it’s a chronic condition that goes through periods of flare-ups and remission. If you know the things that trigger your eczema – like stress, dust, or certain detergents – it can help to avoid these things and make certain lifestyle changes.

Most types of eczema can be controlled with prescription medication, like a topical steroid or an oral medication. There are also newer biologics that may be prescribed in some cases.

If you have difficulty controlling your eczema, seeing more than one specialist may help to get your condition under control.

Both allergists and dermatologists can help diagnose and manage your eczema. You may be referred to one of both of these types of doctors, but either one can offer assistance in treating your condition.

If you need to find an allergist or dermatologist in your area, start by asking your primary care physician for a referral.

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