Understanding the Types of Eczema

Most people think there is only one type of eczema. In reality, there are several variations of the condition, each with its own causes, treatments, and manifestations. Understanding the type of eczema you have is an important step toward getting the treatment you need. Below, we’ve outlined the six major types of eczema.

If you think you have this common condition, it is important to know the types of eczema and eczema treatments available. Some forms of this rash are manageable without a doctor’s intervention, but a lot of people can benefit from specialized treatment strategies, especially when it comes to rarer, more severe forms of eczema.

Atopic Dermatitis

If you notice eczema symptoms, odds are that you have atopic dermatitis, the most common form of the condition. This rash typically forms in the creases of the elbows and knees, starting in childhood and often disappearing in adulthood. Atopic dermatitis symptoms include small bumps, which can leak fluid when scratched, and the affected skin areas may turn lighter, darker, or get thicker than the surrounding skin. This type of eczema is caused by a variety of factors, including dry skin, genetic predisposition, immune system deficiencies, and environmental triggers.

Contact Dermatitis

Eczema caused solely by contact with certain substances is known as contact dermatitis. This condition manifests as red, irritated skin, and it can be caused by the immune system’s reaction to an irritant (an allergen) or interaction with an irritating chemical substance. Common causes include bleach, nickel, detergents, latex, certain soaps and perfumes, tobacco smoke, and some skin care products. While contact dermatitis can look similar to atopic dermatitis, it is more likely to develop fluid-filled blisters.

Dyshidrotic Eczema

This type of eczema is characterized by where it forms on the body: on the hands and feet. The rash appears as fluid-filled blisters, most often on the toes, fingers, palms, and soles of the feet, and they can itch and hurt. Most dyshidrotic eczema is caused by allergies, but it can also be the result of stress, excessively damp feet and hands, and exposure to some substances, like nickel and cobalt.

Neurodermatitis

Similar to atopic dermatitis, neurodermatitis results in scaly, thick patches of skin that can appear anywhere on the body. Most commonly, it occurs on the legs, arms, scalp, the bottoms of the feet, backs of the hands, genitals, and the back of the neck. This severe form of eczema often appears in people who already have other forms of the condition or psoriasis. Doctors are unsure of its exact cause, but many think stress is a powerful trigger.

Nummular Eczema

Nummular eczema is characterized by its distinctive, coin-shaped rash. Round spots form on the skin, and they are often itchier than other forms of eczema. Most of the time, nummular eczema is triggered by an allergic reaction to certain metals or chemicals, or it can be caused by an insect bite. Dry skin is also a common cause.

Stasis Dermatitis

This severe form of eczema occurs in people who have significant blood flow problems, especially in the lower legs. It occurs when fluid leaks out of weakened veins and into the skin, causing extreme swelling, redness, pain, and itching. Open sores may develop on the lower legs and on the tops of the feet, and the legs themselves may ache. People with stasis dermatitis are also likely to have varicose veins, which may have dry, itchy skin.

Atopic Dermatitis

Eczema vs. Atopic Dermatitis
The term atopic dermatitis and eczema are often used interchangeably to refer to a chronic skin condition characterized by inflammation and irritation; however, this is not entirely accurate. Contrary to popular belief, eczema itself isn’t really the condition, but a description of the variety of skin diseases that cause the inflammation and irritation. Atopic dermatitis is one such condition.

Who can get it?
Atopic dermatitis is the most prevalent form of eczema. This common, and often persistent, skin disease affects a large percentage of people. While it is seen primarily in infants and children, it can also affect adults.

Signs and Symptoms and Causes, Oh My!
This condition typically presents as red, dry, itchy skin; however, it can be more severe and present with crusty or cracked skin, blisters and scaling. The condition often appears on the face, scalp, hands, feet or the back of knees. The true cause of this type of eczema is unknown, however suffers should understand that such things as cold weather, allergies, low levels of humidity and even the use of harsh skin products can aggravate the condition. There is evidence that seems to indicate a genetic link between the condition and other ‘atopic’ disorders like hay fever or asthma. Feel free to read more about this here.

Treatment
This condition, along with other types of eczema should be treated vigilantly, especially in severe cases. The conditions are not contagious, however if the blisters or cracked skin become infected the infection can spread to other parts of the body. The use of steroid creams has proved to be an effective treatment; however, one can safely manage their symptoms at home using moisturizers and lotions that keep the skin hydrated.

Other Forms of Eczema

  • Contact dermatitis – This differs from its atopic counterpart because it is caused by encountering a skin irritant and often presents with hives.
  • Dyshidrotic eczema – This condition is quite dissimilar as well as it causes blisters solely on hands and feet and is more prevalent amongst women.
  • Nummular eczema – This type of eczema looks very different from other types. It appears as coin-shaped spots on the skin that can be incredibly itchy.