Eczema, What is It?

Understanding Eczema and How to Recognize It

What is Eczema?

Chances are, you or someone you know is affected by eczema. About 1 in 12 people in the United States are affected by eczema or atopic dermatitis. This is the most common type individuals are affected by, according to the National Eczema Association (NEA).

How to Treat Eczema

Atopic dermatitis is a common skin condition marked by itchy and inflamed patches of skin.

According to, atopic dermatitis is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition that the NEA notes is linked to an overreactive immune system. Eczema can cause considerable discomfort for those people who have it.

Symptoms and signs of eczema can start in early childhood, though people of all ages are afflicted. It may disappear as a child grows older or continue through adulthood.

It is often seen in babies and young children, appearing on the faces of infants. But eczema can come in a variety of types in children, teens, and adults.

What are the Types of Eczema?

When people refer to eczema, they usually mean atopic dermatitis, which is characterized as dry, itchy skin that often appears with a red rash. This is the most common and chronic type of eczema.

Types of eczema include:

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is skin inflammation. It occurs because the skin has been exposed to a substance that irritates it or causes an allergic reaction.

Many natural and artificial chemicals can trigger contact dermatitis. These include ingredients found in:

  • Antibiotic ointments
  • Cosmetics
  • Fabric finishes
  • Household cleaners
  • Laundry detergents
  • Metal jewelry
  • Perfumes
  • Shampoos and Soaps

Doctors classify contact dermatitis into two types. The type depends on the cause of inflammation:

  • Irritant contact dermatitis. This is triggered by exposure to a chemical that is poisonous (toxic) or irritating to the skin. It is not an allergic reaction.
  • Allergic contact dermatitis. This is an immune reaction. It occurs only in people who are naturally oversensitive to certain chemicals.

In most cases, the inflammation goes away when the irritant is removed.

Dyshidrotic Dermatitis

Dyshidrotic eczema is an ongoing (chronic) skin condition. It causes a burning, itching feeling. Severe dyshidrotic eczema may also cause a blistering rash. It can affect your palms, the sides of your fingers, and the soles of your feet. It’s most common in people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. But it can happen at any age.

Dyshidrotic eczema is a certain form of this skin inflammation. It can cause mild to severe symptoms. In some cases, symptoms go away in a few weeks with no treatment or just with using hand lotion. More often, it happens over many months or years.

Experts are still working to learn the causes. But some factors may increase your risk of having it, such as:

  • Having had atopic dermatitis in the past
  • Having allergies, such as allergic rhinitis
  • Being exposed to allergens or irritants, such as certain metals
  • Smoking
  • Receiving UV radiation
  • Having overactive sweat glands

Certain things can trigger episodes, such as:

  • Stress
  • Very warm or cold weather
  • Very dry or humid air

Nummular Dermatitis

Nummular eczema is a type of eczema that is distinguished, in large part, by coin-shaped (round or oval) spots on the skin.

The rash can be itchy or not, dry or wet, and cause significant discomfort. Nummular eczema is generally associated with contact dermatitis, and, when it occurs, there is usually a disruption in the skin barrier that allows irritants through.

Treating nummular eczema is difficult, as it does not affect everyone who has it in the same way, and its root cause is not known. It is more common in men.