Eczema is also referred to as dermatitis, and the two are interchangeable as general terms for the skin condition. Dermatitis means “skin inflammation.” There are several subtypes of eczema which are categorized by their symptoms.
Different types of eczema can look similar on the skin, so determining the type of eczema is an important part of diagnosis. Knowing which type of eczema you have helps the doctor determine which treatments are likely to be effective. It is possible to have more than one type of eczema.
Atopic dermatitis is usually chronic and can be difficult to treat. Atopic dermatitis often develops during the first six months of a child’s life. Atopic dermatitis most frequently affects the cheeks, arms, legs, and behind the ears. Typically, atopic dermatitis appears as a dry, red, scaly, itchy rash. Open, weeping sores may occur during flare-ups. It is common for people with atopic dermatitis to also have allergies and asthma, known as the atopic triad. This is more common in children, as many outgrow this condition as they get older.
Contact dermatitis occurs when someone touches an irritating substance with their bare skin. A wide range of substances can trigger contact dermatitis, including soaps, detergents, metals, paint, cigarette smoke, and allergens such as pollen or animal dander. Contact dermatitis causes redness, burning, and itching wherever skin has touched the substance — most frequently the hands. Blisters may also form. Subtypes of contact dermatitis, which include irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis, are categorized by the specific immune reaction involved in their development. Poison ivy is the most well-known form of allergic contact dermatitis.
Dyshidrotic eczema, also known as pompholyx eczema, is twice as common in women as in men. In dyshidrotic eczema, small, itchy blisters appear on the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet, and along the edges of the fingers and toes. The blisters may be accompanied by redness, pain, and flaking, scaling, or cracking. Dyshidrotic eczema may be triggered by stress, moistness of the hands or feet, exposure to metals or pigments, or allergies such as hay fever.
Also referred to as hand dermatitis, hand eczema may be caused by another type of eczema, such as atopic dermatitis or contact dermatitis. Some people with hand eczema also experience eczema on their feet. Hand eczema usually appears as a reddened, scaly, itching, painful rash. Hand eczema may also cause blisters, cracks, or erosions of the skin. This is very common in people whose hands are heavily exposed to water or other irritating chemicals.
Also known as lichen simplex chronicus, neurodermatitis involves a frustrating itch-scratch cycle. Scratching the itchy skin causes it to become itchier, and as the cycle continues, the skin thickens and becomes leathery. Patches of neurodermatitis may be red or darkened. People with neurodermatitis may develop one or more spots, most commonly on the neck, forearms, wrists, thighs, or ankles. People with this disorder often have many excoriations and scratches on their skin that can get infected.
Nummular eczema may also be referred to as discoid eczema and nummular dermatitis. Nummular eczema causes round or coin-shaped spots of dry, itchy skin that may be scaly or form open sores. Nummular eczema can be difficult to treat. Common triggers for nummular eczema include insect bites and dry skin. This form can easily be confused with ringworm due to its round appearance.
Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic form of eczema that occurs on the scalp, face, upper chest, and upper back — areas where the skin produces a lot of oil. On the face, the sides of the nose and between the eyes are commonly affected. Seborrheic dermatitis is not connected with allergies, but does seem to involve hormones, the immune system, and yeast and other microorganisms that occur naturally on the skin. Seborrheic dermatitis is slightly less common in women than men and can occur in people of any age. In infants, seborrheic dermatitis is known as cradle cap. Seborrheic dermatitis causes reddened, swollen, greasy skin. On the scalp, seborrheic may cause dandruff, yellowed scales, and itchy, crusty skin.
Other names for stasis dermatitis include venous stasis dermatitis, gravitational dermatitis, and venous or varicose eczema. Stasis dermatitis develops when blood cannot easily flow back to the heart. Blood pools in the lower legs, increasing pressure and causing some blood to leak from capillaries (tiny blood vessels) into the skin. Stasis dermatitis causes pain, redness, itching, and scaling. Open ulcers can form and become infected. Stasis dermatitis is usually associated with swelling (edema) around the ankles and may be due to heart failure, kidney problems, or problems with leg veins.
Also called eczema cracquelée, asteatotic eczema usually affects people over 60. Dryness and a decrease in oils seem to be related to the development of asteatotic eczema. Hot baths and vigorous scrubbing or towel-drying may worsen existing dryness, leading to asteatotic eczema. Asteatotic eczema causes a “cracked pavement” appearance, with darkened, red, or pink skin divided by shallow grooves. Asteatotic eczema is most often seen on the shins, although it may affect the upper arms, upper legs, and lower back.