Eczema is a general term for inflammation of the skin, causing the outer layer to become red, itchy and uncomfortable. While no cure for eczema exists and the cause is not fully understood, it is thought to berelated to an overreaction of the body’s immune system to an irritant. Eczema is known to not be contagious and is easily treated in a majority of patients. Eczema can affect people of all ages but because it occurs most commonly in infants and children under five, it is important to be able to identify the symptoms of the different types of eczema at a glance. Eczema affects between 10% to 20% of infants in the United States and roughly 3% of adults experience symptoms later in life. Knowing the difference between the types of eczema can help improve treatment and ensure good health.
Here are the different types of eczema and their symptoms:
The most common type of eczema, atopic dermatitis is a chronic skin disease characterized by inflamed, itchy skin. The severity of the condition can fluctuate depending on exposure to a variety of factors include food allergies, exposure to pollens, molds and allergens or contact with irritants like certain soaps and detergents. About two thirds of all those who develop atopic dermatitis do so prior to 1 year of age. Like all forms of eczema it is not contagious but does tend to run in families, so it is not uncommon to see multiple members of the same family with similar symptoms.
Another very common form of eczema, contact eczema or contact dermatitis is a reaction caused when the skin comes in contact with an allergen. This allergen could be an irritant such as chemical cleaning agents or acid, or things as common as laundry detergent, soap or cosmetics. Even reactions to poison ivy or poison sumac are considered examples of allergic contact eczema.
A form of skin inflammation that manifests as yellowish, scaly patches of skin typically on the scalp and face. Dandruff and “cradle cap” are common examples of seborrheic eczema. While tending to run in families, seborrheic eczema symptoms are also related to infrequent shampooing, oily skin and stress.
A relatively uncommon condition, nummular eczema is most frequently found in elderly men. The symptoms can be identified as coin-shaped patches of inflamed and irritated skin, typically on the lower back, arms and legs. These patches are usually extremely itchy and may feel crusty or scaly to the touch. Nummular eczema is usually a chronic condition that runs in families.
Also called lichen simplex chronicus, this form of eczema is caused by a scratch-itch cycle. The cycle begins with an itch caused by contact with an irritant such as an insect bite that becomes irritated when scratched. The scratching exacerbates the inflammation, causing scaly, inflamed patches of skin on the head, wrists, forearms and lower legs. Stress plays a role in the severity of the reaction.
A skin condition affecting the lower legs, related to the circulatory problem called venous insufficiency, in which functions of the valves within the veins is reduced or compromised. The insufficient blood flow as a result of this condition causes itching and reddish-brown discoloration in the skin of the legs and if left untreated can lead to the formation of blisters and lesions. This condition is sometimes called varicose eczema.
An irritation of the skin localized on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, resulting in itchy, deep blisters. The cause of dyshidrotic eczema is unknown, affecting males and females of any age equally. Dyshidrotic eczema is also known as vesicular palmoplantar dermatitis, dyshidrosis, or pompholyx.
If you suspect you might have symptoms matching eczema, it is important to contact your care providor as soon as possible for a diagnosis and treatment options. Eczema is most commonly treated through minor alterations in diet and behavior including avoiding possible food allergies such as dairy, nuts or gluten and through medication. Treatment and prevention can be as easy as introducing a moisturizing cream or lotion and increasing exercise or other stress-management techniques.
An Island Dermatology specialist can make a diagnosis of eczema and advise treatment. Make an appointment with Island Dermatology today!