- Signs & Symptoms
What is eczema?
Rather than a specific health condition, eczema is a reaction pattern that the skin produces in several diseases. It begins as red, raised tiny blisters containing a clear fluid atop red, elevated plaques. When the blisters break, the affected skin will weep and ooze. In older eczema and chronic eczema, the blisters are less prominent and the skin is thickened, elevated, and scaling.
Eczema is almost always very itchy.
11 types of skin conditions that cause eczema
There are at least 11 distinct types of skin conditions that produce eczema. To develop a rational treatment plan, it is important to distinguish them. This is often not easy.
The 11 types of skin conditions that cause eczema include the following:
- Atopic dermatitis: This health condition has a genetic basis and produces a common type of eczema. Atopic dermatitis tends to begin early in life in those with a predisposition to inhalant allergies, but it probably does not have an allergic basis. Characteristically, rashes occur on the cheeks, neck, elbow and knee creases, and ankles.
- Irritant dermatitis: This occurs when the skin is repeatedly exposed to excessive washing or toxic substances.
- Allergic contact dermatitis: After repeated exposures to the same substance, an allergen, the body's immune recognition system become activated at the site of the next exposure and produces dermatitis. An example of this would be poison ivy allergy.
- Stasis dermatitis: It commonly occurs on the swollen lower legs of people who have poor circulation in the veins of the legs.
- Fungal infections: This can produce a pattern identical to many other types of eczema, but the fungus can be visualized by scraping under the microscope or grown in culture.
- Scabies: It's caused by an infestation by the human itch mite and may produce a rash very similar to other forms of eczema.
- Pompholyx (dyshidrotic eczema): This is a common but poorly understood health condition that classically affects the hands and occasionally the feet by producing an itchy rash composed of tiny blisters (vesicles) on the sides of the fingers or toes and palms or soles.
- Lichen simplex chronicus: It produces thickened plaques of skin commonly found on the shins and neck.
- Nummular eczema: This is a nonspecific term for coin-shaped plaques of scaling skin most often on the lower legs of older individuals.
- Xerotic (dry skin) eczema: The skin will crack and ooze if dryness becomes excessive.
- Seborrheic dermatitis: It produces a rash on the scalp, face, ears, and occasionally the mid-chest in adults. In infants, it can produce a weepy, oozy rash behind the ears and can be quite extensive, involving the entire body.
What are the symptoms and signs of eczema?
Almost all patients with eczema complain of itching. The appearance of most types of eczema is similar (elevated plaques of red, bumpy skin); however, the distribution of the eruption can be of great help in distinguishing one type from another. For example, stasis dermatitis occurs most often on the lower leg while atopic dermatitis occurs in the front of the elbow and behind the knee.
Common symptoms of eczema include:
What specialists treat eczema?
Eczema often is treated by family physicians, but since there are many causes of eczema, it may be necessary to seek help from a health specialist if things are not improving. Most dermatologists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of all forms of eczema.
How do healthcare professionals diagnose eczema?
An accurate diagnosis requires an examination of the entire skin surface and a careful health history. A doctor needs to rule out curable conditions caused by infectious organisms. Occasionally, a sample of skin (biopsy) may be sent for examination in a laboratory.
What is the treatment for eczema?
The treatment of acute eczema, which has significant weeping and oozing, requires repeated cycles of application of dilute solutions of vinegar or tap water often in the form of a compress followed by evaporation. This is most often conveniently performed by placing the affected body part in front of a fan after the compress. Once the acute weeping has diminished, then topical steroid (such as triamcinolone cream) applications can be an effective treatment.
- Topical calcineurin inhibitor tacrolimus ointment (Protopic) treats moderate to severe eczema while pimecrolimus cream (Elidel) treats mild to moderate eczema.
- The injectable biologic (monoclonal antibody) dupilumab (Dupixent) treats severe cases of eczema that haven't responded to other treatments.
- In extensive disease, systemic steroids may need to be utilized either orally or by an injection (shot).
What heals eczema naturally?
- Mild eczema may respond to compresses composed of tepid water followed by room air evaporation.
- Chronic eczema can be improved by applying water followed by an emollient (moisturizing cream or lotion).
- Mild eczema can be effectively treated with nonprescription 1% hydrocortisone cream.
Is there a cure for eczema?
Each type of eczema requires a specific sort of therapy. The easiest eczemas to cure permanently are those caused by fungi and scabies. Allergic contact eczema can be cured if a specific allergenic substance can be identified and avoided.
- CDC Warns of Potentially Fatal Bacterial Illness on U.S. Gulf Coast
- Helping Others as Volunteers Helps Kids 'Flourish': Study
- FDA Approves Pfizer's RSV Shot for Older Adults
- What to Do When Tough-to-Treat Lymphoma Strikes During Pregnancy
- Rate of Pregnant U.S. Women Who Have Diabetes Keeps Rising
- More Health News »
Is eczema contagious?
Eczema caused by fungi and scabies is transmissible to others. None of the other types of eczema are contagious.
What is the prognosis of eczema?
Most patients with eczema do quite well under the care of a dermatologist who has made an accurate diagnosis.
Occasionally, eczema can become infected by microorganisms, such as staphylococci or herpes simplex virus. This is because the normal barrier function of the skin has been damaged by the inflammatory condition. In this situation, the infection could be contagious and require antibiotics treatment. An important signal would be the development of fever and pustules, plus pain at the site of the rash.
Is it possible to prevent eczema?
The judicious use of moisturizing creams or ointments can be an effective treatment for many people in preventing certain types of eczema.
What foods should I avoid to prevent eczema outbreaks?
The role of diet in atopic dermatitis is controversial. There is little compelling evidence that diet plays a significant role in causing or preventing outbreaks in the majority of people who have eczema, no matter which type they have.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Wold, Lindsey, Jennifer K. Chen, and Heather P. Lampel. "Hand Dermatitis: An Allergist's Nightmare." Curr Allergy Asthma Rep 14.474 (2014): 1-9.
Top Eczema Facts Related Articles
Baby Skin Care: Tips to Keep Newborn’s Skin HealthyBaby skin care products can help with peeling, rashes, baby acne, and dryness that can develop on a newborn baby's skin. Develop a baby skin care routine to pamper your baby’s skin.
CellulitisCellulitis is an acute spreading bacterial infection below the surface of the skin characterized by redness, warmth, inflammation, and pain. The most common cause of cellulitis is the bacteria staph (Staphylococcus aureus).
Cupping TherapyCupping is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that aims to improve the flow of qi (energy) in the body. Learn more about the benefits and potential side effects of the various types of cupping.
Eczema and Atopic Dermatitis Rashes SlideshowEczema is a common allergic skin condition. Learn more about types of eczema like atopic dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema and baby eczema. Find treatments like creams for face, hands, scalp, and more.
Pictures of EczemaA particular type of inflammatory reaction of the skin in which there are typically vesicles (tiny blister-like raised areas) in the first stage followed by erythema (reddening), edema (swelling), papules (bumps), and crusting of the skin followed, finally, by lichenification (thickening) and scaling of the skin. See a picture of Eczema and learn more about the health topic.
Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis) Quiz:Does dry, itchy, flaky, scaly, red, inflamed skin sound familiar to you? Take the Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis) Quiz to learn more about the causes, symptoms, and treatments of this common skin condition.
Heat RashHeat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating. It can occur at any age and it appears as a rash that itches or feels prickly, and looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters.
Heat rash remedies include OTC creams and sprays. Usually heat rash resolves when the skin is cooled sufficiently. Medical treatment may be necessary if the sweat glands become infected.
Hives (Urticaria)Hives, also called urticaria, is a raised, itchy area of skin. Most often the cause of hives is unknown. Sometimes it is a sign of an allergic reaction to food or medications, but the cause of the allergy (the allergen) is unknown. Dermatographism and swelling (angioedema) may accompany hives. Treatment to get rid of hives and alleviate symptoms typically includes antihistamines.
See How Your Life Affects Your SkinSee how your life affects your skin. The choices you make every day affect the appearance of your skin. Learn how to avoid dry skin and wrinkles and to keep your skin healthy with these helpful beauty tips.
Itching (Pruritus)Itching can be a common problem. Itches can be localized or generalized. There are many causes of itching including infection (jock itch, vaginal itch), disease (hyperthyroidism, liver or kidney), reactions to drugs, and skin infestations (pubic or body lice). Treatment for itching varies depending on the cause of the itch.
Low FODMAP Diet for IBS
FODMAPs are foods that contain sugar alcohols and short chain carbohydrates. The gut can't digest them very well. There are "low" FODMAP foods and "high" FODMAP foods. Foods high in FODMAPs lay in the gut and ferment, which causes symptoms of:
- Excessive gas
- Abdominal pain
Some people with digestive diseases and disorders, for example, IBS, microscopic colitis, IBD (Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis), and other functional bowel disorders often are placed on a low FODMAP diet to decrease the amount of high FODMAPs foods in the diet, which create uncomfortable symptoms.
Skin RashThe word "rash" means an outbreak of red bumps on the body. The way people use this term, "a rash" can refer to many different skin conditions. The most common of these are scaly patches of skin and red, itchy bumps or patches all over the place.
Skin BiopsyDuring a skin biopsy, a piece of skin is removed under a local anesthesia and examined using a microscope. The different types of skin biopsy include shave biopsy, punch biopsy, and excisional biopsy. Skin biopsies are performed to diagnose skin growths, skin conditions, and skin cancers.
Skin Problems: Rosacea, Acne, Shingles, Covid-19 RashesLearn to spot and treat skin conditions commonly found in adults such as acne, Covid-19 rashes, eczema, shingles, psoriasis, rosacea, hives, cold sores, razor bumps, athlete's foot, and more dermatology details.
Skin QuizWhat's that all over you? Skin, of course! Test your knowledge of your most amazing organ with the Skin Quiz!
Skin Test for AllergyAn allergy skin test helps identify triggers for one's allergic reactions. Small amounts of allergy-provoking substances (allergens) are scratched into the skin. Redness and swelling develop if one is allergic to the substance. A positive allergy skin test implies that the person has an IgE antibody response to that substance. The test is rapid, simple, and relatively safe.
What Are the Causes of Blisters on the Hands?Although blisters most commonly form on feet, they can occur anywhere on the body. Hand blisters and finger blisters are a common sight in everyday life. Learn what causes hand and finger blisters, when to see a doctor, and how to treat hand and finger blisters.