Atopic Dermatitis

  • Medical Author:
    Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD

    Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Quick GuideEczema (Atopic Dermatitis) Pictures Slideshow: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis) Pictures Slideshow: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

What is the difference between atopic dermatitis and eczema?

Eczema is a nonspecific term for many types of skin inflammation (dermatitis). There are different categories of eczema, which include allergic, contact, irritant, and nummular eczema, which can be difficult to distinguish from atopic dermatitis. These types of eczema are listed and briefly described below. Atopy is a medical syndrome that includes three associated conditions that tend to occur in the same individual: atopic dermatitis, inhalant allergies, and asthma. All three components need not be present in the same individual simultaneously.

Types of eczema

  • Contact eczema: a localized reaction that includes redness, itching, and burning where the skin has come into direct contact with an irritant such as an acid, a cleaning agent, or other chemical
  • Allergic contact eczema: a red, itchy, weepy reaction where the skin has come into contact with a substance that the immune system recognizes as foreign, such as poison ivy or certain preservatives in creams and lotions like Neosporin or bacitracin (Baciguent)
  • Seborrheic eczema (also called seborrheic dermatitis or seborrhea) is a very common form of mild skin inflammation of unknown cause that presents as yellowish, oily, scaly patches of skin on the scalp, face, ears, and occasionally other parts of the body. Often this is also called dandruff in adults or "cradle cap" in infants.
  • Nummular eczema: coin-shaped (round), isolated patches of irritated skin -- most commonly on the arms and lower legs -- that may be crusted, scaling, and extremely itchy
  • Lichen simplex chronicus (localized neurodermatitis): a dermatitis localized to a particular anatomical area induced by long-term rubbing, scratching, or picking the skin. The underlying cause may be a sensitivity or irritation that sets off a cascade of repeated itching and scratching cycles. It may be seen as scratch marks and pick marks. Areas of thickened plaques form on the skin of the neck, shins, wrists, or forearms. This condition has certain similarities to calluses, and it will resolve if the patient stops irritating the area.
  • Stasis dermatitis: a skin irritation on the lower legs, generally related to circulatory problems and congestion of the leg veins. It may have a darker pigmentation, light-brown, or purplish-red discoloration from the congestion and back up of the blood in the leg veins. It's sometimes seen more in legs with varicose veins.
Xerotic eczema on the leg
Picture of xerotic eczema on the leg
  • Dyshidrotic eczema: irritation of the skin on the palms of hands (mostly) and less commonly soles of the feet characterized by clear, very deep-seated blisters that itch and burn. It's sometimes described as a "tapioca pudding"-like rash on the palms.
  • Xerotic eczema: areas of very dry skin most often seen on the lower legs of the elderly
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/9/2015
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