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Types of Eczema

Updated on October 21, 2021
Medically reviewed by
Kevin Berman, M.D., Ph.D.
Article written by
Kelly Crumrin

Eczema is also referred to as atopic 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 and prognosis. 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

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 for infants most frequently affects the cheeks, arms, legs, and behind the ears. As kids get older, it often appears in skin folds, especially in the inner arms and behind the knees.

Typically, atopic dermatitis appears as a dry, scaly, itchy rash that can be pink, red, purple, or dark brown depending on skin tone. Open, weeping sores may occur during flare-ups. Over time, the skin becomes thickened and rough, similar to leather. 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.

Read more about atopic dermatitis.


Infantile atopic dermatitis commonly appears on the face, behind the ears, and on the arms and legs. (DermNet NZ)


Lichenification of atopic dermatitis gives skin a dry, leathery appearance. (DermNet NZ)
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Atopic dermatitis can cause hyperpigmentation and changes to skin color. (DermNet NZ)

Dry atopic dermatitis can appear in an extensor pattern. (DermNet NZ)

Contact Dermatitis

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 discoloration, 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. Allergic contact dermatitis typically appears 24 to 48 hours after exposure to the offending agent. Poison ivy is the most well-known form of allergic contact dermatitis.


Allergic contact dermatitis is caused by an allergic reaction, in this case to rubber. (DermNet NZ)
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Contact dermatitis frequently appears on the hands when they come into contact with an irritating substance. (DermNet NZ)

Contact dermatitis can change skin pigmentation. (DermNet NZ)
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Dyshidrotic Eczema

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 skin discoloration, 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.

Read more about symptoms, causes, and treatments for dyshidrotic eczema.


Dyshidrotic eczema can appear as small, itchy blisters on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. (DermNet NZ/Professor Raimo Suhonen)

Dyshidrotic eczema, or pompholyx eczema, often appears on the soles of the feet. (DermNet NZ)
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Hand Eczema

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 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. Excessive hand-washing or use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers contributes to hand eczema.


Hand eczema is common in people whose hands are exposed to harsh weather or chemicals.
(DermNet NZ)

Hand eczema appears as a scaly rash that can be itchy or painful. (DermNet NZ)
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Eczema on the hands can cause cracked skin and blisters.
(DermNet NZ)
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Neurodermatitis

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.


Lichen simplex involves a frustrating itch-scratch cycle. (DermNet NZ)

Scratching a patch of lichen simplex thickens the skin and causes more itching. (DermNet NZ)

Nummular Eczema

Nummular eczema may also be referred to as discoid eczema or 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 even more difficult to treat than other forms of eczema. Common triggers for nummular eczema include insect bites and dry skin. This form can easily be confused with ringworm due to its round appearance.

Read more about symptoms, causes, and treatments for nummular eczema.


Nummular eczema causes round spots of itchy or dry skin.
(DermNet NZ)
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Nummular eczema is also called discoid eczema since it appears as disc-like sores and patches. (DermNet NZ)

Nummular eczema can be harder to treat than other types of eczema. (DermNet NZ)
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Seborrheic Dermatitis

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 it can occur in people of any age. In infants, seborrheic dermatitis is known as “cradle cap.” Seborrheic dermatitis causes darkened, swollen, greasy skin. On the scalp, seborrheic may cause dandruff, yellowed scales, and itchy, crusty skin.


Seborrhoeic dermatitis can occur in people of any age. (DermNet NZ)
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Seborrhoeic dermatitis occurs in places where the skin produces a lot of oil. (DermNet NZ)

Seborrhoeic dermatitis can also affect the scalp. (DermNet NZ)
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Stasis Dermatitis

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 swelling, pain, skin discoloration, itching, and scaling. Open ulcers can form and can easily 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.


Stasis dermatitis usually occurs in places where there is swelling, like the ankles. (DermNet NZ)

Stasis dermatitis forms when blood cannot easily flow back to the heart. (DermNet NZ)

Asteatotic Eczema

Also called eczema cracquelée, asteatotic eczema usually affects people over 60 and is characterized by excessively dry, cracked skin. 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 brown, 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.

Read more about asteatotic eczema.


Asteatotic eczema, or eczema craquelé, usually affects people over 60. (DermNet NZ)

Hot baths and rough towel-drying can worsen asteatotic eczema. (DermNet NZ)

Condition Guide

Kevin Berman, M.D., Ph.D. is a dermatologist at the Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Kelly Crumrin is a senior editor at MyHealthTeams and leads the creation of content that educates and empowers people with chronic illnesses. Learn more about her here.

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