Have you noticed your skin looking red and inflamed and feeling very itchy from time to time? If you answered yes, you might have this condition known as eczema.

Eczema is a non-contagious condition that is commonly also known as dermatitis. It is a highly prevalent skin condition. In fact, over 31 million people in the United States struggle with some form of eczema. [1

Let’s explore all the 7 different types of eczema, their causes, and the possible treatment options. 

Contents:

Atopic dermatitis || Contact dermatitis || Seborrheic dermatitis || Dyshidrotic eczema || Neurodermatitis || Stasis dermatitis || Nummular eczema || Bottomline: Types Of Eczema || FAQ For Types Of Eczema

Atopic dermatitis 

Atopic dermatitis is also known as atopic eczema. It is the most prevalent form of dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis tends to affect people with atopic tendencies. This condition refers to a cluster of diseases, including asthma, hay fever, and food allergies. [2]  

Though this condition is widespread in children, some outgrow it when they reach their teenage or adult years. [3] Despite this, around 5-15% of young adults still experience atopic dermatitis. [2]

Symptoms: 

  • Dry skin and red itchy rashes on the body, hands, feet, inner bend of knees and elbows, and legs 
  • There may be some blistering of the skin. The blisters may contain or leak pus (fluid). 
  • Over time, the affected area can become thick, cracked and scaly.
  • These symptoms often recur/relapse. [2, 4
Eczema

Causes: 

These are triggers that can worsen the symptoms of atopic dermatitis but aren’t the actual cause.

  • Irritants such as soap, cleaning agents, sand, or grass
  • Certain types of clothing, 
  • Stress, infection, allergies, 
  • Excessive sweating and hot weather [5

Management: 

  • Avoid triggers or aggravators 
  • Avoid using hot water when bathing
  • Avoid hot and long baths 
  • Wear loose, breathable, and comfortable clothing 
  • Using emollients or moisturizers suitable for sensitive skin 
  • Using soap-free shower gels ideal for sensitive skin or having soap-free showers 
  • Topical corticosteroids (under the instructions and guidance of a healthcare professional) [3]

Contact dermatitis 

Contact dermatitis is a condition involving red, inflamed, and itchy rashes on the skin after you come into contact with an irritant or allergen. [6

The most important management strategy to do is to identify your trigger and avoid it. However, do note that the irritant that triggers contact dermatitis for you might differ compared to other people with the same condition. 

The condition is seen more often in healthcare providers, hairdressers, cleaners, farmers, and chefs. Because they are in contact with common allergens or irritants in their day-to-day jobs, they run a higher risk of getting contact dermatitis. [6]

Unlike atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis does not run in the family and is not associated with conditions such as hay fever, asthma, or food allergies. [7

Symptoms: 

  • A red, inflamed, and itchy rash on the area of the body that was in contact with the allergen or irritant. 
  • Dry skin that can be cracked, thick, and scaly. 
  • The affected area might contain blisters that contain or leak pus. 
  • Burning feeling on raw, irritated, and broken skin
  • This condition can affect your daily activities (difficulty in sleeping or concentrating due to discomfort and itch). [6, 7]
Eczema

Causes: 

Irritant contact dermatitis is the more common form. It does not involve an allergic reaction or a response by the immune system. It can be caused by:

  • Bleach, detergents, soaps, cleaning agents
  • Plants 
  • Shampoos and hair dyes
  • Makeup 
  • Metal snaps or buckles on articles of clothing 
  • Scratchy and wooly clothes 
  • Sawdust or wood dust [6, 7]

Allergic contact dermatitis is less common. It involves an allergic reaction that begins due to an inflammatory response by your immune system to the allergen. It can be caused by: 

  • Nickel in watches, clothes, belt buckles, jewelry, etc
  • Plants including poison ivy
  • Certain medications (such as topical antibiotics)
  • Fragrances and chemicals in deodorants, nail polish and other personal care products
  • Makeup [6, 7]

Management:

  • Identifying the irritant. You may realize stinging, burning, and discomfort in a few minutes after coming into contact with the irritant. 
  • Your dermatologist can also help you identify the trigger by performing a procedure known as skin patch testing. 
  • Using a moisturizer or emollient suitable for sensitive skin. You may consider using a barrier cream or wearing gloves to prevent direct contact with the irritant. 
  • Topical steroid creams (under supervision of a healthcare professional) [6, 7]

Seborrheic dermatitis 

Seborrhoeic dermatitis is a recurring and chronic form of dermatitis that mainly affects the scalp. Other than that, it can also affect other sebaceous parts of the body, including the face, eyebrows, eyelids, and chest. [8, 9]

Eczema

Seborrheic dermatitis is also known as dandruff. It is called cradle cap in infants and babies, and you may notice patches of crusty skin on their scalp that are not particularly itchy. The rashes may spread to affect other parts of the body. [8, 9]

Symptoms: 

In adults, you may notice the following:-

  • Scaly yellowish patches that are minimally itchy (though you may still experience some itching)  
  • These patches may appear on the scalp, sides of the nose, eyebrows, eyelids, and chest. 
  • Red or inflamed skin
  • Flaking skin that resembles dandruff in your hair or eyebrows
  • Flaky patches on your chest, armpits, or under the breasts. 

In infants and babies, you may notice these symptoms:

  • Greasy, scaly patches on the scalp 
  • Flaky or peeling pink patches on the skin
  • Typically not itchy [8, 9]

Causes: 

The exact cause of seborrhoeic dermatitis is not well-understood. However, Malassezia is a yeast that may be associated with this skin condition. Some factors may put you at a higher risk of developing adult seborrheic dermatitis. These include:-

  • Having a weakened immune system (due to medical conditions such as HIV or certain medications) 
  • Stress and lack of sleep
  • Psychiatric and neurology-related conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, depression, or epilepsy 
  • Family history of psoriasis [8, 9]

Management:

Management for adult seborrheic dermatitis may include the following:-

  • Topical antifungals (lotions, creams, or shampoos) 
  • Topical corticosteroids to alleviate the inflammation and itch 
  • In more severe cases, an oral antifungal may be required. [8, 9]

Management for cradle cap: 

  • Wash your baby’s hair once daily with mild baby shampoo.
  • Apply mineral or baby oil at least a few hours before shampooing the hair.
  • After shampooing the hair, use a soft brush to brush and gently loosen the crusted scales.
  • Low potency antifungal or corticosteroids may be required for more complex cases. Consult your healthcare provider for recommendations and advice. [10

Dyshidrotic eczema 

Dyshidrotic eczema is also known as pompholyx. This form of eczema can lead to the appearance of small and extremely itchy blisters. These blisters commonly appear on the soles of your feet or the palms of your hands. Occasionally, they may be seen around your fingers and toes. [11, 12]

This form of eczema is most prevalent in adults under 40 but can affect any age group. It is commonly a recurring condition that can last for long periods. [11, 12]

Symptoms: 

  • Blisters are usually found on the hands and feet only. 
  • The blisters are extremely itchy and may cause a burning sensation at first. 
  • Over time, the blisters may become painful and can erupt to leak fluid 
  • In severe cases, these blisters may be considerably large and can spread. 
  • As the recovery process starts, these blisters dry up, peel and leave the skin cracked with painful fissures.
  • The skin may get infected.  [11, 12]
Eczema

Causes: 

The exact cause of dyshidrotic eczema is not known. However, certain things may trigger a flare-up. These include:-

  • Contact with irritants such as certain metals like nickel, detergents, cleaning agents, fragrances, makeup, and shampoo
  • Stress
  • Hot, humid weather and excessive sweating
  • A fungal infection of the skin  [11, 12]

Management: 

  • Using a soap-free cleanser suitable for sensitive skin
  • Using soap substitutes
  • Using emollients or moisturizers suitable for sensitive skin. They may help repair and prevent excessive dryness of the skin. 
  • Manage stress (yoga, meditation, etc.)
  • Avoid popping or scratching the blisters. 
  • Avoid triggers. Cleanse your hand thoroughly and as soon as possible after coming into contact with a particular trigger. 
  • Steroid creams to relieve itch and inflammation
  • Antihistamines may help alleviate the itch 
  • Antibiotics may be required if your doctor suspects an infection [11, 12]

Neurodermatitis 

Neurodermatitis is another prevalent form of eczema that affects approximately 12% of the U.S. population. Neurodermatitis is a skin condition usually confined to one or two dry and scaly patches of the skin. [13, 14]

It can lead to intensive itch and scratching, and symptoms can recur from time to time. The constant scratching can irritate the nerve endings present in the skin. [13, 14]

Symptoms: 

  • A few patches on the skin that may be dry, scaly, thick, and differently colored from the rest of the skin
  • An intense itch can come and go or be present all the time. 
  • It commonly affects the feet, ankles, arms, shoulders, elbows, legs, wrists, and hands. 
  • The itch usually peaks when the person is relaxing or attempting to sleep. However, it may also intensify if you are nervous or anxious. 
  • This condition often involves a vicious cycle. First, the itch causes you to scratch the affected area constantly, which irritates the nerve endings present in the skin. When the nerve endings are irritated, this can cause the itch to increase, causing you to scratch the area more.
  • Occasionally, the scratching causes open wounds, infection, scabbing, or scarring. [13, 14]

Causes: 

The exact cause of neurodermatitis has yet to be discovered. However, certain risk factors may increase the chances of you getting neurodermatitis. These include:-

  • Family history of skin conditions, including dermatitis 
  • Having an anxiety disorder
  • Triggers such as tight clothing, especially if they’re made of wool or synthetic materials
  • Other triggers such as dry skin, bug bites, or nerve injury 
  • Stress and anxiety may also trigger an episode [13, 14]

Management:

  • Topical corticosteroids may help alleviate inflammation and itch.
  • Antihistamines can also be taken to reduce the itch.
  • Numbing agents such as lidocaine or capsaicin cream to reduce pain and itch
  • Applying moisturizer and having cool baths
  • Wear loose-fitting, breathable, and comfortable clothing.
  • Relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga may work. They can help reduce the stress and anxiety that may trigger flare-ups. 
  • Coal tar preparations may be placed directly on the skin or added to your bath.
  • Antibiotics may be needed if your doctor suspects an infection.

Stasis dermatitis 

Stasis dermatitis is also known as gravitational dermatitis or venous eczema. This condition occurs when the circulation in the lower leg is poor, and hence, water and blood cells accumulate in the lower legs. [15,16

It is usually more prevalent in middle-aged or older people and can lead to itchy blistered lesions and swelling at the affected area.

Symptoms: 

  • Discolored skin that may look reddish, purple, or grey
  • Itchy and blistering lesions on the affected area
  • The lesions may also be fissured, dry, cracked, or scaly. 
  • Open sores can appear on the lower legs or top of the feet.
  • The calves appear swollen, and the ankles may appear narrowed 
  • Severe cases may lead to permanent alterations in the skin, such as hardening, thickening, or skin discoloration. You may also notice bumps that form a cobblestone appearance.

Causes: 

Poor circulation is likely to heighten your risk of getting stasis dermatitis. Hence, people above the age of 50 run a higher risk of developing stasis dermatitis. Other than that, the following risk factors may raise your chances of getting stasis dermatitis:-

  • Having varicose veins (swollen or enlarged veins in the legs or feet) 
  • Obesity
  • Hypertension
  • Swelling of the lower leg that lasts long-term
  • Kidney failure
  • Heart failure
  • Having a history of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in the affected leg

Management: 

  • Treat the root cause of the problem 
  • Corticosteroids to reduce swelling 
  • Compression stocking or wraps to lessen swelling
  • Elevating the leg above heart level. Do this for fifteen minutes and repeat every two hours or so. 
  • Oral antihistamine or topical corticosteroids to relieve itch
  • Open wounds and sores can be cleansed with saline water. Suitable bandages can protect the wound. 
  • If your doctor suspects an infection, he may prescribe you an antibiotic. Moisturizers can soothe dry and cracked skin [16, 17

Nummular eczema 

Nummular eczema is also known as discoid eczema. This condition usually leads to the appearance of coin-shaped itchy patches on the skin. Anyone can get nummular eczema, though males have a higher tendency to develop it compared to females. [18, 19

Symptoms: 

  • Coin-shaped plaques on the skin
  • You may notice a burning sensation in the affected area.
  • Sometimes, patches may ooze liquid or form crusts. 
  • Itching may be severe.
  • The borders of the patches are well-defined.  [18, 19
Nummular

Causes: 

The exact cause of nummular eczema is not known. Nummular eczema may be associated with the following:-

  • Dry, sensitive skin 
  • Scrapes or trauma to the skin
  • Insect bites
  • Certain medications
  • Chronic alcoholism
  • Chemical burns to the skin 
  • Other forms of eczema 
  • Irritants such as nickel [18, 19

Management: 

Considerably aggressive treatment is usually required to combat nummular eczema. Management of nummular eczema may include the following:-

  • Higher potency topical steroids to lessen inflammation and itch
  • Steroid injections may be required for stubborn cases
  • Oral steroids for more severe cases
  • Antibiotics if blisters form, or if the lesions ooze liquid and become crusted over 
  • Oral antihistamines to alleviate the  itch
  • Avoiding allergens or triggers 
  • Emollients and moisturizers suitable for sensitive skin [18, 19

Bottom line: Types Of Eczema 

The different types of eczema may share some overlapping features and symptoms. Eczema cases can commonly be treated with topical steroids, though other lifestyle modifications may also help prevent and control the condition. 

The best way to get your skin condition diagnosed is to visit and consult your health professional. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) For Types Of Eczema 

What does eczema look like? 

Eczema often appears as red, irritated, itchy rashes on your skin. This symptom is a common presentation of atopic dermatitis, which is the most common form of eczema. 

Another type of dermatitis, namely contact dermatitis, also presents with itchy and red patches that can be seen on skin that comes into contact with the irritant. But, again, depending on the type of eczema you have, the symptoms can look different.  


How do you cure eczema? 

In most cases of eczema, treatment or proper management is required to reduce inflammation, itch, and discomfort and prevent a recurrence. Corticosteroids in creams, lotions, and gels are often applied directly to the affected skin to combat itch and inflammation. 

Depending on the type of eczema, different strategies can be incorporated to alleviate symptoms and prevent a recurrence. For instance, if you have contact dermatitis, one of the most crucial management strategies is to avoid the substance or compound that triggers your symptoms. Most forms of eczema also improve with the consistent use of emollients or moisturizers suitable for sensitive skin. 


Can eczema go away? 

While there is no known permanent cure for eczema, your rashes and symptoms can resolve with proper treatment and management. However, people will have to take extra measures to avoid recurring episodes and flare-ups in many cases. Avoiding your trigger is one of the best ways to prevent eczema flare-ups. 


What is the root cause of eczema? 

The exact cause of eczema is not well-understood. However, certain factors can increase your risk of a flare-up. For example, people who have regular contact with common irritants such as detergents, cleaning agents, hair dyes, rubbing alcohol, or fertilizers are at greater risk of getting contact dermatitis. [6, 7]


Does eczema spread by scratching? 
Eczema cannot spread by scratching. Unlike contagious skin conditions such as tinea, eczema is not transferable and does not spread from person to person. However, eczema can spread to affect other or larger areas of the body, and scratching may worsen the condition, possibly causing raw, tender skin or open wounds. At times, scratching can irritate nerve endings in your skin, causing the itch to worsen. This occurrence can lead to a vicious cycle. [13, 14]

Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your own healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.

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