Eczema: Causes, Symptoms And Various Types

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Eczema: Causes, Symptoms And Various Types

Eczema is a skin condition consisting of red, itchy and inflamed skin. It can be present in both children and adults.

Eczema: Causes, symptoms and various types

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Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a skin condition characterised by a red, highly itchy rash that commonly appears in the creases of the elbows, wrists, and knees and can also occur on the neck, ankles, and feet. When scratched, the rash becomes raw and weepy. The itching creates a vicious cycle, where scratching leads to more irritation and further itching. While atopic dermatitis is most commonly observed in infants and children, it can persist into adulthood or develop later in life.

When eczema appears in infants, it is referred to as infantile eczema. This condition typically begins in infancy and may continue throughout childhood and adolescence. Infantile eczema often presents as a rash that oozes and crusts, primarily affecting the face and scalp, but it can appear anywhere on the body. As the child grows older, the rash tends to become drier and takes on a red to brown-grey colour. In adolescence, the skin may become scaly or thickened and easily prone to irritation. The intense itching commonly experienced with eczema may persist throughout these stages.

Types of eczema

Atopic dermatitis - Atopic dermatitis, the most prevalent type of eczema, typically initiates during childhood and often improves or resolves by adulthood. It is categorised as one component of the atopic triad, a term used by healthcare professionals to refer to three interconnected conditions. The other two conditions in this triad are asthma and hay fever. It is common for people with atopic dermatitis to have all three conditions simultaneously.

Contact dermatitis - Contact dermatitis is characterised by red, irritated skin and the presence of thick, scaly areas resulting from a reaction to substances that come into contact with the skin. If you experience these symptoms, it is possible that you have contact dermatitis. This condition can be classified into two types: allergic contact dermatitis and irritant contact dermatitis. Allergic contact dermatitis occurs when the immune system reacts to an irritant substance such as latex or metal. On the other hand, irritant contact dermatitis develops when chemicals or other substances directly irritate the skin.

Dyshidrotic eczema - Dyshidrotic eczema, also known as pompholyx, is a skin condition characterised by the formation of small blisters on the hands and feet. This particular type of eczema tends to occur more frequently in women compared to men.

Seborrheic dermatitis - Seborrheic dermatitis is a condition characterised by the formation of scaly, oily patches on the skin, which result in dandruff-like flakes. These patches primarily occur in areas with a higher concentration of sebaceous glands, such as the hairline, scalp, upper back, nose, and groyne. When seborrheic dermatitis develops in infants, it is commonly referred to as cradle cap, and it typically does not reoccur later in life. However, in teenagers and adults, seborrheic dermatitis is more likely to persist as a chronic skin problem.

Neurodermatitis - Neurodermatitis, also known as lichen simplex chronicus, shares similarities with atopic dermatitis and leads to the development of thick and scaly patches on the skin.

Nummular eczema - Nummular eczema, alternatively referred to as discoid eczema, presents itself with circular patches resembling coins on the skin. The term "nummular" finds its roots in Latin and describes the shape of a coin. With its distinctive appearance, nummular eczema differentiates itself from other types of eczema and is often accompanied by intense itching sensations.

Stasis dermatitis - Stasis dermatitis occurs when weakened veins result in the leakage of fluid into the skin. This fluid can lead to various symptoms, including swelling, redness (in individuals with lighter skin tones), and brown, purple, grey, or ashen discoloration (in individuals with darker skin tones). Additionally, itching and pain may also be experienced.

Hand eczema - Hand eczema, also known as hand dermatitis, refers to a specific form of eczema that solely impacts the hands. This condition typically occurs in individuals who are employed in occupations such as hairdressing or cleaning, where frequent exposure to irritating chemicals is common.

Causes of eczema

Eczema is a hereditary condition characterised by sensitive and dry skin. It is often accompanied by a personal or family history of allergies, asthma, or hay fever. Flare-ups can be triggered by contact with irritants such as soap or chlorine. For some people with eczema, certain foods can also provoke flare-ups. To determine if a specific food item like cow's milk or eggs is causing the flare-ups, it is recommended to avoid that food for a two-week period. Afterward, reintroduce the food and observe if the eczema becomes itchy or flares up within two hours of consumption. If this occurs, it indicates that the food is a trigger and should be avoided. While stress and emotional disorders can exacerbate atopic dermatitis (eczema), they are not the underlying cause.

Symptoms of eczema

Symptoms of atopic dermatitis, commonly known as eczema, can appear in different areas of the body and exhibit substantial variations among people. These symptoms include the following:

  1. Dry, cracked skin
  2. Itchiness (pruritus)
  3. Rash on swollen skin, which may exhibit different colours based on one's skin tone
  4. Presence of small, raised bumps on brown or black skin
  5. Oozing and crusting
  6. Thickened skin
  7. Darkening of the skin surrounding the eyes
  8. Raw, delicate skin resulting from scratching


Eczema often fluctuates throughout one's lifetime. Atopic dermatitis typically peaks during childhood but tends to alleviate as one grows older. On the other hand, certain types of eczema may persist throughout your life; however, there are steps you can take to mitigate your symptoms.

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