There are at least 11 unrelated skin diseases that produce eczemas, as eczema actually refers to any type of dermatitis or “itchy rash.”
All types of eczema cause itching and redness. Blistering, scaling and cracking are also common eczema symptoms. Eczema typically affects insides of elbows, backs of the knees, and the face, but some eczema types can cover most of the body.
Did You Know?
Approximately 90% of eczema patients develop their symptoms before the age of five. Eczema Statistics
Identifying the type of dermatitis that is causing your eczema symptoms is not always easy, but being informed will help.
Here are some of the more common types:
Also known as atopic eczema, childhood eczema or baby eczema
The most common type of eczema, atopic dermatitis (AD) almost always begins in childhood —usually in infancy and is also the most severe and chronic (long‐lasting). AD often affects people who have asthma or hay fever, or a family history of either. It is not contagious. AD most often occurs on the face, hands, feet, inner elbows and back of the knees. With atopic eczema, our immune system overreacts to eczema triggers (link to triggers page) that would not normally do us any harm — often environmental factors like irritants (soaps, fragrances, detergents) and allergens (animal dander, dust mite droppings, pollens).
Contact dermatitis is a form of eczema that occurs when the skin comes in contact with certain substances, causing skin inflammation. There are two types, irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis.
With irritant dermatitis, the more common of the two, contact with the irritant can cause a reaction that looks either like a red, dry scaly rash or more like a burn. Common irritants include:
- Household & industrial solvents and chemicals
- Detergents, soaps, fragrances, shampoos
- Long‐term exposure to wet diapers
- Rubber gloves
- Tobacco smoke
- Paints and dyes
- Woolen fabrics
- Acidic foods
- Astringents and other alcohol (excluding cetyl alcohol) containing skin care products
Dyshidrotic Eczema (or Pompholyx)
Dyshidrotic eczema is a skin condition in which small blisters develop on the hands and feet. The cause is unknown. It is twice as common in women.
With this type of eczema, small fluid‐filled blisters called vesicles appear on the fingers, hands and feet. (Most common along the edges of the fingers, toes, palms and soles.) These blisters can be very itchy. They also cause scaly patches of skin that flake or get red, cracked and painful.
According to NationalEczema.org, people are more likely to develop dyshidrotic eczema when:
- They are under stress
- They have allergies, such as hay fever
- Their hands are often in water or moist
- They do cement work or other work that exposes their hands to chromium, cobalt or nickel
Along with a skin protectant cream like MG217, general treatment measures can include cool, wet compresses, cold packs, protective gloves, well‐fitting footwear, as well as prescription medications for severe cases.
Seborrheic dermatitis (also spelled “seborrhoeic”) is a common skin condition similar to eczema that sometimes occurs in patients with eczema. In babies, it is known as “cradle cap” as it tends to affect the scalp. It can be easily confused with atopic dermatitis, but is scaly and not as red.
Older children and adults can develop it on the scalp as well. In these cases, it is similar to dandruff but tends to be more itchy and inflamed. Seborrheic dermatitis can also affect the face, upper chest and groin, and can overlap with psoriasis.
Treatment varies between infants and older patients, and can include medicated shampoos, topical antifungal creams and steroid lotions.
This type of eczema, sometimes called venous stasis dermatitis because it arises when there’s a problem with the veins, generally occurs in the lower legs.
Varicose veins or a problem with the valves of the veins allow for pressure to develop. Stasis dermatitis can then arise quickly, causing itching or pain, swelling, weeping and, over time, permanent changes to the skin like scars or stains. Since the cause of this eczema is known, treating the underlying vein issues is the preferred method of treatment.
Other treatments for stasis dermatitis include steroid creams, moisturizers, moist compresses, antibiotics for infections, and elevating the legs.
Also known as discoid eczem or nummular dermatitis
A common type of eczema, nummular eczema looks very different than the usual atopic dermatitis and can be much more difficult to treat. (Unlike other forms of eczema, however, it can clear up completely after adequate treatment.)
The word “nummular” comes from the Latin word for “coin”: spots can look coin‐shaped on the skin. They tend to be well defined, but may be very itchy or not itchy at all. They can be very dry and scaly or can become wet and open.
Nummular eczema can occur at any age, but most frequently on the lower legs of older individuals, and more often in men than women.
Allergic Contact Dermatitis
Allergic contact dermatitis is caused by exposure to a substance to which you have become allergic. According to NationalEczema.org, common contact allergens include:
- Adhesives, including those used for false eyelashes or toupees
- Antibiotics such as neomycin rubbed on the surface of the skin
- Balsam of Peru (used in many personal products and cosmetics, as well as in many foods and drinks)
- Fabrics and clothing
- Fragrances in perfumes, cosmetics, soaps, and moisturizers
- Nail polish, hair dyes, and permanent wave solutions
- Nickel or other metals (found in jewelry, watch straps, metal zips, bra hooks, buttons, pocket knives, lipstick holders, and powder compacts)
- Poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, and other plants
- Preservatives in personal care products such as diazolidinyl urea, formaldehyde, methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, and quaternium‐15
- Rubber or latex gloves or shoes
Hand eczema refers generally to a group of skin eczemas that affect areas of the hand. These account for 20–35% of all dermatitis, affect up to 10% of the population, and may occur at any age.
Because hands are the most common site for irritant contact dermatitis, hand eczema is prevalent in industries where contact with irritants is common (like cleaning, catering, healthcare and mechanical work). However, specific allergens can also contribute. Allergic contact dermatitis on hands may be traced to contact with allergens hours to days earlier.
Additionally, other types such as dyshidrotic eczema (pompholyx) commonly occur on the hand, accompanied by blisters and intense itching.
If you have a form of hand dermatitis, your doctor can help you determine what irritating chemicals or practices are contributing to your condition.
Also known as lichen simplex chronicus
Neurodermatitis is an itchy skin disease similar to atopic dermatitis. It tends to result in focal patches due to frequent rubbing or scratching of the same area over time.
Neurodermatitis commonly occurs on the nape of the neck, scalp, shoulders, instep of feet/ankles, wrists and the back of hands. Itchy, patchy areas can become thickened and discolored. Unlike atopic dermatitis, the patches caused by neurodermatitis tend to always be present while the rest of the skin remains healthy.
Common eczema triggers, including allergens, are thought to have a role in causing this type of dermatitis. As with atopic eczema, you can treat neurodermatitis using a skin protectant like MG217 to moisturize and soothe the damaged skin barrier.