Eczema, known medically as atopic dermatitis (dur-muh–tahy-tis), is when the skin becomes easily irritated, itchy and dry. It is the most common allergic skin condition.
Eczema is more common in children than adults, thiugh it can occur at any age. Many babies will experience eczema; children often outgrow eczema, although it may flare up later in life episodically or regularly. Eczema is linked to both genetic (inherited from parents) and environmental factors. It is connected to asthma, food allergies and seasonal allergies.
Researchers do not know exactly what causes eczema. When an external substance or something inside the body triggers the immune system, it overreacts and produces inflammation. This inflammation causes a rash, leading the skin to become red and itchy. In addition to a direct allergic reaction, there are other things can make eczema flare up, such as certain foods, stress, soaps and lotions, or cold and dry air.
There are actually several different types of dermatitis. A person may have more than one type at a time:
- Atopic Dermatitis: This type of eczema is inflammatory and chronic. It is not known exactly what causes the immune system to go into overdrive and to overrespond to external or internal allergens. This is usually a condition that starts in childhood, even in babies. This type of eczema includes such symptoms as: scaly and dry skin; cracks behind the ears; red patches; itching; rash on the arms, legs or face; and possible open sores that may be crusty or weepy. (Click HERE for a sample photo of atopic dermatitis.)
- Dyshidrotic Eczema: Small itchy blisters on the edges of the fingers, toes, soles of the feet and palms are key symptoms of this type of eczema. Other symptoms may include: general itching; redness; scaly or cracked skin; pain; and flaking. More common in women than men, there are many possible triggers for dyshidrotic eczema including seasonal allergies; moist hands and feet; stress; the metal nickel (often in jewelry); the metal cobalt (often in plated objects as well as in the pigments of certain paints and enamels); and chromium salts (used in making cement, leather, brick mortar, leather and anticorrosives). (Click HERE for a sample photo of dyshidrotic eczema.)
- Contact Dermatitis: This type of eczema happens when the skin touches something that irritates it or that has allergens, and the skin gets inflamed. This often flares up on the hands, arms or other parts of the body that touches the allergen/irritant. Symptoms include: redness and rash; blisters that may be crusted or weepy; burning; or swelling. Some common irritants that cause contact dermatitits are: metals (such as in jewelry); solvents; industrial chemicals; seasonal or environmental allergens; smoke; paints; bleach; wool; acid (including food acid); cosmetic products; soaps; and fragrances. (Click HERE for a sample photo of contact dermatitis.)
- Seborrheic Dermatitis: This type of dermatitis is considered chronic. It appears on the parts of the body that have many sebaceous (oil producing) glands such as the scalp, nose and upper back. Conditions that compromise the immune or nervous systems (such as HIV or Parkinson’s disease) are thought to increase one’s risk or developing seborrheic dermatitis. The scalp is a very common place for this type of eczema to develop. Symptoms may include: redness; dry flakes or dandruff; greasy swollen skin; scaly skin; and white or yellow crusty flakes. (Click HERE for a sample photo of seborrheic dermatitis.)
- Stasis Dermatitis: Also called gravitational dermatitis, venous statis dermatitis or venous eczema, this type of eczema occurs when there is a problem with blood flow in the veins and when pressure develops. The pressure, typically in the legs, can cause fluid to leak out of the veins and into the skin, which results in statis dermatitis. Symptoms may include: redness; scaling; itching; swollen ankles; pain; oozing; or cracking of sores. (Click HERE for a sample photo of stasis dermatitis.)
- Nummular Eczema: This type of eczema looks noticeably different than other eczemas. It is typified by very itchy, disc-shaped spots on the skin. Nummular eczema, or nummular dermatitis, can occur at any age. It is triggered by dry skin in the winter, insect bites or reactions to skin inflammation. Symptoms may include: round, coin-shaped spots; itching; dry, scaly skin; and open wet sores.
We can help identify which type of eczema you or your child may have. We will help try to identify what triggers your eczema, so that you can best treat and manage your eczema. Contact us HERE for help with your eczema.