Eczema (Dermatitis)

Discover Excema's Triggers & Treatments

Eczema is a broad term used to describe skin inflammation. It's a series of chronic skin conditions that produce itchy rashes; scaly, dry, and leathery areas of skin; skin redness; and/or inflammation around blisters.

Eczema can occur anywhere on the body but is most commonly found in arm, face, and leg creases. The main characteristic of eczema is itchiness. Lesions may begin to ooze and form a crust when scratched. Painful cracks in the tissue can form over time.

This skin condition affects people of all age, gender, and race. Eczema is thought to be hereditary but isn't contagious. The specific cause of eczema remains unknown, but there usually are physical, environmental, and/or lifestyle triggers. When a person comes into contact with a trigger, such as wind or an allergy-producing fabric, the rash and inflammation appear. Although it's possible to develop eczema once, most cases are chronic, characterized by intermittent flare-ups throughout life.

Over-the-counter topical creams and antihistamines can be effective for mild eczema. Stronger medications, such as steroid creams and oral steroids, are usually prescribed for persistent eczema. Antibiotics and/or anti-fungal creams are used to treat potential infections. Identifying and removing a trigger is the best prevention. It's recommended to use mild cleansers for the skin and to keep skin well-moisturized at all times. Try to avoid scratching, which can cause infection, and sweat-inducing situations.

Leading Types of Eczema

The forms of eczema depend on the trigger and rash location. While there are common symptoms, such as itchiness, there are differences. The following are common types of eczema.

Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is the most frequent form of eczema. It's thought to be caused by abnormal functioning of the immune system. Characterized by itchy, inflamed skin, atopic dermatitis tends to run in families. About two-thirds of people who develop atopic dermatitis do so before their first birthday. Atopic dermatitis generally has intermittent appearances throughout the person's life.

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is caused by skin contact with allergens or irritants, such as chemicals. Proper treatment and prevention rely on discovering the trigger. Triggers can take many forms, such as cosmetics, fabrics, laundry detergent, and poison ivy.

Dyshidrotic Dermatitis

Dyshidrotic dermatitis affects the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. The skin condition causes clear, deep blisters to form, highlighted by itching and burning sensations. It occurs the most during the summer months and in warm climates.


Also known as Lichen Simplex Chronicus, neurodermatitis is a chronic skin inflammation. It's caused by a continuous cycle of scratching and itching in response to a localized itch, such as a mosquito bite. Scaly patches of skin usually form on the forearms, head, lower legs, or wrists. The affected skin may become thickened and leathery over time.

Nummular Dermatitis

This form of eczema appears as round patches of crusty, irritated skin that has a scaly appearance and be extremely itchy. Nummular dermatitis is a chronic condition and usually appears on the arms, back, buttocks, and lower legs.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis causes yellowish, oily, and scaly patches on the face, scalp, or other body parts. Common examples are cradle cap in infants and dandruff in adults. Seborrheic dermatitis does not necessarily itch, unlike other types of eczema, and is genetic. Though known triggers vary between patients, common triggers include emotional stress, infrequent shampooing, oily skin, and weather conditions.

Stasis Dermatitis

Also known as varicose eczema, stasis dermatitis is a skin irritation that mostly affects middle-aged and elderly people. The condition appears on the lower legs and is related to circulation and vein problems. Symptoms include itching and reddish-brown discoloration of the skin on one or both legs. As stasis dermatitis progresses, it may lead to blistering, oozing, and skin lesions.

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