An Overview of the Different Types of Eczema
Eczema is the name for a group of conditions that cause the skin to become itchy, inflamed and red in lighter skin tones or brown, purple, gray or ashen in darker skin tones. Eczema is very common. In fact, more than 31 million Americans have some form of this skin condition.
Eczema is not contagious. You can’t “catch it” from someone else. While the exact cause of eczema is unknown, researchers do know that people who develop eczema do so because of a combination of genes and environmental triggers.
When an irritant or an allergen from outside or inside the body “switches on” the immune system, it produces inflammation. It is this inflammation that causes the symptoms common to most types of eczema. While it can sometimes be confused for other common conditions, such as hay fever, psoriasis, allergic reactions and poison ivy. It can affect anywhere on the body from the head to lower legs, hands and feet.
These common symptoms can range from itchy skin, crusting, inflamed skin and dry skin. More severe symptoms can include blisters, oozing clear fluid from flare-ups and scaly patches. Because eczema breaks down the skin barrier, folks with this condition have an increased risk for skin infections on patches of skin affected by eczema and other skin diseases.
Some eczema symptoms, such as skin dryness, can be managed with a proper skin care routine, emollients and reducing exposure to food allergies which trigger eczema flares. Buying high quality moisturizers, lotions, creams, shampoos and soaps are important for those affected by eczema too. It’s also important to be careful when purchasing fragrances, dyes, detergents, perfumes and ointments as some can cause flare-ups.
More severe symptoms might require antihistamines, other over-the-counter medications, corticosteroids and topical steroids. Before starting any treatment plans, it’s best to discuss your options with your healthcare professional.
There are seven different types of eczema:
- Atopic dermatitis: a common form of eczema which causes inflammation, dryness and itchy skin. While typical in small children, it can occur at any age.
- Contact dermatitis: also called allergic contact dermatitis, this form of eczema is brought on by environmental triggers.
- Neurodermatitis: also called discoid eczema, this form affects small patches of skin. It makes them itchy and scaly.
- Dyshidrotic eczema: this type of eczema dries out the skin and can cause a burning sensation, rashes and blisters.
- Nummular eczema: also called nummular dermatitis, this form creates small, rounded lesions all over the body, but especially on arms and legs.
- Seborrheic dermatitis: an inflammatory form of eczema which affects your scalp.
- Stasis dermatitis: a skin discoloration on the legs which looks similar to varicose veins.
It is possible to have more than one type of eczema on your body at the same time. The most common form of eczema is atopic eczema. Other common types of eczema include irritant contact dermatitis and seborrheic dermatitis.
Each form of eczema has its own set of triggers and treatment requirements, which is why it’s so important to consult with a healthcare professional who specializes in treating eczema. Dermatologists can help identify which type or types of eczema you may have and how to treat and prevent flare-ups. Typically, a dermatologist will do a patch test to discover whether it’s eczema or something else and then create a customized treatment plan. A dermatologist can also identify the cause of your eczema, whether it’s due to family history, environmental factors, or a mix of both.