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The Different Types of Eczema

Friday 31 July 2020
skin conditions

Table of Contents


I. Eczema Overview

II. Atopic Dermatitis

III. Contact Dermatitis

IV. Dyshidrotic Eczema

V. Neurodermatitis

VI. Nummular Eczema

VII. Seborrheic Dermatitis

VIII. Stasis Dermatitis


Eczema Overview

Eczema is a condition that affects millions of people in the United States. Eczema is also known as dermatitis, which is any condition that causes itchy and dry skin. This skin disorder can occur due to several factors, including genetics, allergens, and other triggers. Eczema is not contagious and can vary from person to person. There is no cure for eczema, but medications like Elidel Cream (Pimecrolimus) can help reduce itching and inflammation. Symptoms of eczema can include:

  • Itching, especially at night
  • Raw, sensitive, and swollen skin
  • Raised bumps that may leak fluid
  • Red to brownish-gray skin patches on the ankles, hands, feet, wrists, neck, and the bend in the elbows or knees
  • Fluid-filled blisters on the skin

a red rash of eczema on a person’s hand

Healthy skin works to retain moisture and protect the rest of the body from harmful bacteria, viruses, and irritants. If the skin becomes red and cracked, it makes the body susceptible to allergens and bacteria that can severely affect the body. Eczema comes in several forms, and your doctor will help you determine which version you are experiencing. Some people can experience more than one form at a time. Read on to learn more about the different forms of eczema. [1]

Atopic Dermatitis

This is the most common form of eczema. The cause is unknown, but atopic dermatitis is chronic and inflammatory. This type of eczema occurs due to a malfunction in the immune system’s response. The immune system goes into overdrive in response to an irritant or allergen. This type usually begins in childhood and can occur in flare-ups throughout a person’s life. Around 9.6 million children and 16.5 million adults have atopic dermatitis in the United States. [2]

Atopic dermatitis is part of the atopic triad. The atopic triad typically includes atopic dermatitis, hay fever, and asthma. These conditions often occur together. Having family members with these disorders make it more likely for you to develop them as well. When the immune system is triggered, inflammation occurs and damages the skin barrier. The skin becomes dry and itchy, which begins a vicious cycle of scratching. This itching spurs on more inflammation. Symptoms of atopic dermatitis can include:

  • Itching
  • Weeping sores
  • Cracks behind the ears
  • Dry, scaly, skin
  • Rash on the cheeks, arms, and legs [3]

a rash of atopic dermatitis on a person’s forearm

Contact Dermatitis

As the name suggests, contact dermatitis occurs when the skin comes in contact with allergens or irritants. This type is not life-threatening but can be very uncomfortable. Several substances may cause irritation, most commonly cosmetics, fragrances, jewelry, soaps, and plants. A person needs to identify and avoid the cause of the reaction. Contact dermatitis typically clears up after a month or so. There are several ways to soothe the skin, and you can use wet compresses and anti-itch creams.

Symptoms of contact dermatitis include:

  • Severe itching
  • A red rash
  • Dry, cracked skin
  • Bumps and blisters
  • Burning or tenderness sensation of the skin [3] 

Because contact dermatitis usually clears itself up, you should only see a doctor if the rash becomes uncomfortable and begins affecting your daily life. If the rash does not get better within three weeks, you should seek a doctor's help before the cracked skin becomes infected. [4]

Dyshidrotic Eczema

Dyshidrotic eczema can cause intensely itchy, water-filled blisters on the feet and hands. Blisters can also form on the soles of the feet, palms, fingers, and toes. Dyshidrotic means “disordered sweating,” and sweaty palms and feet can trigger flare-ups, leading to itching and scratching. This type can have a significant impact on social interactions because people with dyshidrotic eczema may feel self-conscious when shaking hands. People can typically cover other forms of eczema with clothes, but this one is harder to conceal. Researchers have found that this type may run in families and is more common in those who have fungal infections.

Metals are a common trigger, especially nickel. Because of this, dyshidrotic eczema can overlap with contact dermatitis. Hay fever, stress, humid weather, and seasonal allergies can also result in flare-ups. The symptoms of dyshidrotic eczema can range from mild to severe. Symptoms often include:

  • Deep-seated blisters called vesicles
  • Itching and burning of the blisters
  • Red and peeling skin
  • Infected skin
  • Cracks in the skin [5]

water-filled blisters on the toes of a person

Neurodermatitis

This type of eczema affects 12 percent of the population. Unlike the other types of eczema, neurodermatitis does not go away without treatment. Any part of the skin can be affected by neurodermatitis but is most common on the wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck, and scalp. Prolonged scratching of the skin can irritate the nerve endings, which can worsen the scratching. Itching the same areas also leads to patches of dry, thickened skin, which is called lichenification. It can be incredibly difficult to disrupt the itch-scratch cycle of neurodermatitis. [3]

The most common symptoms include:

  • Leathery or scaly skin on the affected area
  • Raised red patches on the skin
  • Itchy skin patches [3]

Elidel Cream (Pimecrolimus) can reduce inflammation of the skin and prevent symptoms of itching. Neurodermatitis can also be linked to anxiety, so counseling or psychotherapy may also help break an itching habit. [6]

Nummular Eczema

Nummular eczema is also known as discoid eczema. This type can occur at any age and is much more difficult to treat than other eczema forms. Coin-shaped spots characterize nummular eczema. The round shape of the sores can make this condition difficult to diagnose because it is often mistaken for ringworm, psoriasis, or fungal infection. Insect bites are a common trigger, but can also occur due to poor blood flow in the lower body. Poor circulation can cause these coin-shaped sores to appear on the thighs and lower legs. It most commonly affects the legs, but also the torso, hands, and different eczema areas like the crooks of the elbows.

Symptoms of nummular eczema can include:

  • Wet, open sores
  • Round spots
  • Redness in lighter skin tone, ashen appearance in darker skin tones
  • Dry, scaly skin [7]

Seborrheic Dermatitis

This is a chronic form of dermatitis in areas of the body where oil-producing (sebaceous) glands are present. These areas can include the upper back, nose, and scalp. There is no known cause for seborrheic dermatitis, but genes and hormones can affect your likelihood of developing this condition. Those with immune system disorders like HIV, AIDS, and Parkinson’s disease can increase your risk of seborrheic dermatitis.

Certain creams and shampoos can help aid in the treatment of this eczema. Antifungal creams or oral tablets can also help prevent infections due to broken skin on the scalp or upper back.

When this type occurs on the scalp, it can appear like dandruff and create dry yellow flakes on lighter skin and greasy, reddened scales on darker skin. Some other common symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis include:

  • White or yellowish crusty flakes
  • Greasy or swollen skin [3]

a splotchy rash of Seborrheic Dermatitis on a person’s scalp

Stasis Dermatitis

Stasis dermatitis can be a chronic condition that results in ulcers, inflammation, and itchy skin on the lower legs. Those with blood flow problems typically have underlying health issues that can result in severe conditions like varicose veins, chronic venous insufficiency, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), and sometimes congestive heart failure. Those over 50 years old are more likely to have this condition. If you do not move a lot during the day and do not exercise, you are at a higher risk of eczema. This can lead to the insufficient blood supply and pressure sores on the lower legs. Increased pressure in the veins can cause fluid to leak out of the veins and eventually, the skin, creating stasis dermatitis.

This is a serious condition and indicative of other health problems, so it is essential to seek treatment if you notice sores developing on your legs. Other symptoms of stasis dermatitis include:

  • Swollen ankles
  • Itching
  • Scaly skin
  • Pain in the lower legs
  • Oozing
  • Open areas of the skin (ulcers)
  • Infection of the open skin [8]

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.