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Understanding the Different Types of Eczema

Eczema is very common. In fact, over 30 million Americans have some form of eczema — a condition that causes the skin to be red, itchy, dry and scaly.

Eczema  generally appears in the first six months to five years of a child’s life. Babies usually develop it on their face (especially the cheeks and chin), but it can appear anywhere on the body (like the folds of the elbows, and/or knees) and symptoms may be different from one child to the next.

More often than not, symptoms go away as a child grows older, though some children will continue to experience eczema symptoms into adulthood. Adults can also develop eczema, even if they never had symptoms as a child. Either way, you should know that eczema is not contagious. You cannot “catch” it from another person, or give it to someone else.

Different types of eczema that you should know about:

  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Contact dermatitis
  • Dyshidrotic eczema
  • Hand eczema
  • Neurodermatitis
  • Nummular eczema
  • Stasis dermatitis

All of these cause itching and redness, but some may also cause your skin to blister, “weep,” or peel. The most common type, which can also be severe and long-lasting, is atopic dermatitis (AD). It’s important to understand which type you or your child may have and also your symptoms and triggers, so that you can best treat and manage your eczema. But the only way to be sure that you or your child has eczema and which type, is to make an appointment with your doctor.

Know what type of eczema you have?

Learn about the different types of eczema and what triggers to avoid

  • Understand the differences between atopic dermatitis, hand eczema and contact dermatitis
  • Some types of eczema are very rare. Get connected to others in the NEA community who share your condition
  • Learn which treatments for your type of eczema are making headlines
  • Discover which triggers to avoid so your eczema doesn’t get worse

Atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is a type eczema that is chronic and inflammatory. Though the exact cause of AD is unknown, it happens when the immune system goes into overdrive. AD usually begins in childhood, often in the first six months of the life. When you or your child have AD, it might improve at times or it may get worse (when you may experience what’s called a “flare up”).

AD is part of what’s called the atopic triad, which includes two other allergic conditions (asthma and hay fever, which is also known as allergic rhinitis). Researchers believe that people who come from families with a history of AD, asthma and/ or hay fever are more likely to develop atopic dermatitis themselves.

Some common symptoms of AD:

  • Dry, scaly skin
  • Redness (erythema)
  • Itching
  • Cracks behind the ears
  • A rash on the cheeks, arms and legs
  • Open, crusted or “weepy” sores (usually during flare-ups)

Read more about AD symptoms, triggers and types of treatment.

Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis happens when the skin touches irritating substances or allergens. These make the skin inflamed, causing it to burn, itch and become red. There are two kinds of contact dermatitis: irritant and allergic. Contact dermatitis usually appears on the hands, or parts of the body that touched the irritant/allergen.

The  most common irritants include:

  • Solvents
  • Industrial chemicals
  • Detergents
  • Fumes
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Paints
  • Bleach
  • Wool
  • Acidic Foods
  • Astringents
  • Skin care products that content alcohol (but not cetyl alcohol)
  • Some soaps and fragrances
  • Allergens (usually animal dander or pollens)

Symptoms of contact dermatitis include:

  • Redness and rash
  • Burning or swelling
  • Blisters that may weep or crust over

Read more about contact dermatitis symptoms, triggers and types of treatment.

Dyshidrotic eczema

Dyshidrotic eczema

Dyshidrotic eczema is a condition that produces small, itchy blisters on the edges of the fingers, toes, palms, and soles of the feet. Stress, allergies (such as hay fever), moist hands and feet, or exposure to nickel (in metal-plated jewelry), cobalt (found in metal-plated objects, and in pigments used in paints and enamels), or chromium salts (used in the manufacturing of cement, mortar, leather, paints, and anticorrosives) may be “triggers” of dyshidrotic eczema. This type of eczema is twice as common in women as it is in men.

Symptoms of dyshidrotic eczema include:

  • Small fluid-filled blisters (vesicles) on the fingers, hands, and feet
  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Flaking
  • Scaly, cracked skin
  • Pain

Read more about dyshidrotic eczema symptoms, triggers and types of treatment.

Hand eczema

Hand eczema

Hand eczema (also known as hand dermatitis) is very common — up to 10% of the population has this type of eczema. It is the result of both internal and external factors including genetics and contact with allergens or irritating substances like chemicals.

Some symptoms of hand eczema:

  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Pain
  • Dryness, to the point of peeling and flaking
  • Cracks in the skin
  • Blisters

Read more about hand eczema symptoms, triggers and types of treatment.



Neurodermatitis is also known as lichen simplex chronicus. It is an itchy skin disease that is similar to atopic dermatitis. People with neurodermatitis tend to get thick, scaly patches on their skin as a result of too much rubbing and scratching of the area.

Some symptoms of neurodermatitis:

  • Thick, scaly patches on the nape of the neck, scalp, shoulders, on the bottoms of feet, on ankles, wrists and the backs of the hands
  • Itching
  • Discolored skin

Read more about neurodermatitis symptoms, triggers and types of treatment.

Nummular eczema

Nummular eczema

Nummular eczema, also known as discoid eczema and nummular dermatitis, is a common type of eczema that can occur at any age. It looks very different than the usual eczema and can be much more difficult to treat. People with nummular eczema develop coin-shaped spots on their skin, which may be very itchy. It is thought to be “triggered” by things like insect bites, reactions to skin inflammation, or dry skin in the winter.

Some symptoms of nummular eczema include:

  • Round, coin-shaped spots
  • Itching
  • Dry, scaly skin
  • Wet, open sores

Read more about nummular eczema symptoms, triggers and types of treatment.

Stasis dermatitis

Stasis dermatitis

Stasis dermatitis is sometimes called venous stasis dermatitis because it usually happens when there is a problem with blood flow in the veins and pressure develops (usually in the lower legs). This pressure can cause fluid to leak out of the veins and into the skin, resulting in stasis dermatitis.

Symptoms of stasis dermatitis include:

  • Swelling around the ankles
  • Redness
  • Scaling
  • Itching
  • Pain

And in more severe cases:

  • Oozing
  • Open areas (cracking or larger ulcers)
  • Infection

Read more about stasis dermatitis symptoms, triggers and types of treatment.