What Is Eczema


Eczema 101: Types, Causes and Diagnoses

Eczema rash affects roughly 30 million Americans, according to the National Eczema Association. The word refers to an assortment of skin conditions that share certain symptoms. There are eight known eczema types that most commonly affect children and adults.

Eight Eczema Types

  • Stasis Dermatitis
    Most cases of stasis dermatitis correspond to poor blood flow in the legs. The low blood pressure causes fluid to ooze from veins and into the epidermis, resulting in rash.
  • Seborrheic Dermatitis
    Arguably the most well known type of eczema, seborrheic dermatitis usually spreads on body parts rich in oil-producing glands called sebaceous glands, such as the scalp, nose and upper back.
  • Nummular Eczema
    Numular eczema often takes the form of coin-shaped lesions that are dry, itchy and scaly.
  • Lichen Simplex Chronicus
    As its name suggests, lichen simplex chronicus is very similar to AD in its chronic nature, flourishing swiftly into thick, scaly patches that are often discolored.
  • Hand Eczema
    Hand eczema accounts for 10 percent of all types of eczema rash. It resembles AD, but it only occurs on the hands, especially the knuckles.
  • Dyshidrotic Eczema
    Dyshidrotic eczema typically manifests as itchy blisters along the sides of the feet, toes, hands and fingers.
  • Contact Dermatitis
    Eczema that occurs when skin comes in contact with allergens or irritants.

Atopic Dermatitis

A chronic form of eczema rash that subsides and flares. It often affects children early and persists throughout childhood and adulthood, usually flaring up behind the knees. Children born to families with of a history of allergies, hay fever and eczema are most likely to develop AD.

Causes of Eczema

There are no scientifically established eczema causes, states BootsWebMD. However, a wealth of anecdotal evidence suggests that eczema causes are a mixture of gene expression and environment. Exposures to allergens and irritants are fairly common eczema causes.

Many types of eczema manifest in response to specific allergens and irritants, or “triggers,” such as:

  • Cat dander
  • Laundry detergent
  • Solvents
  • Industrial chemicals

In many cases, minimizing exposure to triggers combined with a repeated topical treatment of creams and medicinal baths eradicates eczema and prevents future flares. Most eczema creams and ointments are corticosteroids.

Mild variations of corticosteroids are available over the counter. Prescription corticosteroids also come in oral form, such as prednisone. Doctors sometimes also prescribe antibiotic creams to inhibit the spread of topical infections.

Wet dressings containing corticosteroids or undergoing light therapies are additional forms of treatment some people find helpful. The optimal treatment depends on several factors:

  • The eczema in question
  • The patient’s family history
  • The patient’s tolerance
  • The patient’s responsiveness to prevailing treatments

Some children grow out of their eczema before reaching school age, whereas others experience flares and episodes throughout their adolescence and adult life. On the other hand, even chronic forms of eczema, such as AD, occasionally vanish after a single bout of steroidal treatment, never to manifest again.

How Doctors Diagnose Eczema

Eczema diagnoses often entail a skin patch test to rule out other possible skin conditions, explains the Mayo Clinic. To confirm eczema diagnoses, physicians often examine the patient’s skin and family medical history.

Particularly with AD eczema diagnoses, a family history of AD, hay fever and other allergens are themselves a strong confirmation.