Sydney is a contributing health writer and editor who enjoys shedding light on health topics, making information available to anyone who wants it, and ending stigmas or lack of access to care and treatment.
Leann Poston, M.D.
Leann Poston, M.D. earned her medical degree from the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine. She completed an MBA from Raj Soin College of Business, focusing on healthcare. She is a full-time medical communication writer and educator.
April 30, 2021
According to the National Eczema Association, there are seven types of eczema:
If you’re looking for treatments to help deal with your eczema, it can be helpful to first identify which eczema type you have and go from there.
Review the seven main types of eczema (or eczema causes), and get a good idea of which one you have. From there, you can buy helpful products, talk to a doctor, and get a treatment plan going!
Eczema is a series of related skin conditions gathered under one heading.
While there are similarities between the different forms of eczema (also called dermatitis), each type has its own set of parameters and specific symptoms.
Below are explanations of each eczema type.
Atopic eczema is an allergic reaction, as indicated by the word “atopic.” It is often the start of a chain of allergies throughout life, starting with eczema as an infant, becoming food allergies, hay fever, and asthma.
Symptoms can vary from person to person and also between age groups. Infants tend to have eczema show up as scaly patches on the scalp and face. Children with eczema can have rashes appear on the hands and arms, legs, and trunk.
Often the burning and itching of this rash can disrupt sleep, and excessive scratching can cause skin infections. Adults may have scaly and thick patches in the bends of the elbows and knees and on the hands.
This form of eczema is a reaction to a substance that is touched.
Contact dermatitis does not seem to be inherited, and it is not associated with having other allergic conditions. Contact dermatitis can be caused by an immune or allergic reaction or by a reaction to an irritant such as metal or latex.
Some symptoms of contact dermatitis include:
Below are some common irritants that can cause contact dermatitis:
An example of an immune or allergic contact dermatitis is poison ivy. A rash follows an allergic response to the oils in poison ivy.
Nummular eczema causes round, red marks on the skin about the size of coins.
In fact, nummular is the Latin word for coin. These red spots can be extremely itchy.
Nummular eczema can be caused by a reaction to:
Typically nummular eczema is found in those who have another form of eczema, like atopic dermatitis.
This form of eczema is typically seen as blisters that form on the hands and feet. The blisters often itch and burn, and the skin can become cracked and flaky. Dyshidrotic eczema can be caused by different factors such as contact with an irritant, excessive moisture, or stress.
Seborrheic dermatitis appears on the scalp, upper back, and nose—locations with oil-producing glands. It is common in infants and adults between the ages of 30 and 60.
The cause of seborrheic dermatitis is likely an overgrowth of the yeast Malassezia. Malassezia usually lives on the surface of the skin. When it overgrows, the immune system may overreact to it, causing the rash.
Common triggers for seborrheic dermatitis include:
Like atopic eczema, neurodermatitis is often found in those with other types of eczema or psoriasis.
Unlike atopic dermatitis, neurodermatitis is usually confined to a single location.
Stress is a possible trigger, though doctors aren’t certain about what causes it.
With neurodermatitis, look for thick, scaly patches on the scalp, arms and legs, the back of the neck, the bottoms of the feet or on the genitals. These areas can become intensely itchy, especially when at rest.
This form of eczema is rather different from the other forms.
Stasis dermatitis is caused by poor blood return from the vessels in the lower legs.
Symptoms include varicose veins, swelling or heaviness of the legs, dry and itchy skin that may develop sores.
The hands are a part of the body that is most commonly exposed to irritants, and therefore is at high risk from eczema.
Some triggers that might cause eczema on your hands:
Pretty much anytime you’re coming in contact with a known irritant, you are at risk of having an eczema flare-up on your hands.
The best treatment is to try to limit exposure to harsh irritants. If this is impossible, keep the skin clean and moist. Use good quality creams and ointments to seal in moisture, but avoid any with heavy perfumes.
For those with atopic eczema, a doctor might recommend a corticosteroid cream or ointment. For severe cases, they may prescribe an oral corticosteroid like prednisone to decrease inflammation or an antibiotic if the skin becomes infected.
It is essential to treat the rash and remember to try to avoid scratching, as open skin can easily become infected. Call your doctor if you see signs of skin infection such as pus, yellow drainage, or red streaks.
If you’re in need of immediate medical advice, you can visit our partner site PlushCare, and get a quick, convenient appointment with a board-certified doctor. Skip the expensive visits to urgent care or doctor’s offices, and get advice online.
Most eczema, or dermatitis, is caused by allergic reactions. The most common type, atopic eczema, is an allergy itself––related to hay fever. Those who have atopic eczema are often the children of parents who have it or have other allergies. That said, those with atopic eczema are also more likely to be affected by other forms of eczema.
Additionally, “Some young children with severe eczema benefit from food allergy testing and potential removal of certain specific foods from their diet,” elaborates the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. “Peanut, egg, and milk are the most common food allergies identified in these children.”
The main secondary cause of eczema is contact with external irritants. This can also include allergies, such as those to:
However, contact with harsh chemical substances can cause eczema even without an outright allergy. After using a harsh soap, chemical cleaner, or detergent, a person may show symptoms of contact dermatitis.
An elimination strategy of harsh soaps and detergents can help you discover the culprit, and avoiding that particular brand can prevent further outbreaks.
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