Different forms of eczema, such as atopic dermatitis and contact dermatitis, exhibit distinct symptoms and may necessitate tailored treatment approaches.

Eczema, characterized by dry, itchy, scaly, and sometimes painful skin lesions or blisters, is a chronic condition. The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) identifies atopic dermatitis as the most prevalent type of eczema.

Nevertheless, eczema encompasses a spectrum of seven diverse inflammatory skin conditions. For a comprehensive understanding of the causes, symptoms, and treatments associated with each type of eczema, read on.

Table of Contents

  1. Atopic dermatitis
  2. Contact dermatitis
  3. Dyshidrotic eczema
  4. Seborrheic dermatitis
  5. Neurodermatitis
  6. Nummular eczema
  7. Stasis dermatitis
  8. Seeing a doctor
  9. Treatment
  10. Frequently asked questions
  11. Takeaway

1. Atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis stands as the predominant manifestation of eczema.

Typically commencing in childhood, usually between 2 months and 5 years of age, it commonly diminishes in severity or resolves entirely by adulthood. Nevertheless, individuals may experience sporadic flare-ups or encounter symptoms for the first time later in life.

Symptoms of atopic dermatitis typically manifest on the arms or within the folds of the elbows or knees, while children may also exhibit symptoms on their scalp and cheeks. It’s imperative to refrain from scratching any eruptions, rashes, or lesions to prevent potential infection.

The precise cause of atopic dermatitis remains elusive. Nonetheless, the condition arises when the natural barrier of the skin weakens, rendering it less capable of shielding against irritants and allergens. Atopic dermatitis is likely triggered by a combination of factors, including genetic predisposition, dry skin, immune system dysregulation, and various environmental stimuli such as irritants, stress, and dry conditions.

2. Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis arises from a reaction to substances encountered through touch, categorized into two types:

  1. Allergic contact dermatitis: This manifests as an immune system response to an irritant, such as latex or certain metals.
  2. Irritant contact dermatitis: Initiated by direct damage to the skin from chemicals or other substances.

Symptoms of contact dermatitis may manifest within 48 hours following exposure to a triggering substance. These symptoms include:

  • Itchy skin, exhibiting red, pink, or magenta hues; in darker skin tones, this may present as brown, purple, or gray.
  • Sensations of burning or stinging.
  • Development of hives.
  • Formation of fluid-filled blisters.
  • Thickening and toughening of the skin, sometimes resembling leather.

Contact dermatitis occurs upon contact with substances that either irritate the skin or provoke an allergic reaction. Common irritants encompass detergents, bleach, jewelry, latex, nickel, paint, poisonous plants like poison ivy, skincare products including makeup, soaps, perfumes, solvents, and exposure to tobacco smoke.

3. Dyshidrotic eczema

Dyshidrotic eczema, also referred to as pompholyx, is characterized by the formation of small blisters on the hands and feet.

Symptoms of dyshidrotic eczema typically persist for 2–3 weeks and may include fluid-filled blisters that itch, cause discomfort, crack, and flake. These blisters commonly emerge on the fingers, toes, palms, and soles of the feet.

Various factors can contribute to the development of dyshidrotic eczema, including allergies, moist conditions on the hands and feet, exposure to substances like nickel, cobalt, or chromium salt, stress, and tobacco smoking.

4. Seborrheic dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis, often termed scalp eczema due to its frequent occurrence on the scalp, presents distinct characteristics.

In infants, seborrheic dermatitis is commonly known as cradle cap, typically resolving without recurrence. However, in adolescents and adults, seborrheic dermatitis tends to persist as an ongoing skin concern.

Symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis encompass scaly, oily patches of skin producing dandruff-like flakes. These patches predominantly manifest in areas abundant with sebaceous glands, such as the scalp, hairline, upper back, nose, and groin. In individuals with darker skin tones, these patches may appear darker than their skin, while in those with lighter skin tones, they may appear lighter.

The etiology of seborrheic dermatitis is likely multifactorial, involving a combination of environmental and genetic influences. Initial triggers, such as stress or illness, incite an inflammatory response in the skin, prompting excessive growth of Malassezia yeast—an organism naturally residing on the skin’s surface. This yeast overgrowth triggers immune system reactions, precipitating characteristic skin changes observed in seborrheic dermatitis.

Additional triggers contributing to seborrheic dermatitis may include hormonal fluctuations, certain illnesses, exposure to harsh detergents or chemicals, cold and dry weather conditions, underlying medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, psoriasis, HIV, and acne, as well as certain medications like interferon and lithium.

5. Neurodermatitis

Neurodermatitis, also known as lichen simplex chronicus, represents a form of eczema characterized by the development of 1–2 patches accompanied by intense itching that exacerbates with scratching.

Symptoms of neurodermatitis manifest as thick, scaly, and highly pruritic patches on various parts of the body, including the arms, legs, back of the neck, scalp, soles of the feet, backs of the hands, and genital region. It is crucial to refrain from scratching these patches to prevent worsening symptoms, bleeding, and potential infection.

While the precise cause of neurodermatitis remains unknown, it typically initiates with an itch, and the rash intensifies as scratching persists, as outlined by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).

6. Nummular eczema

Nummular eczema, also recognized as discoid eczema, manifests as circular, coin-shaped lesions on the skin, presenting a distinct appearance from other forms of eczema and often accompanied by intense itching.

Symptoms of nummular eczema can persist for several years untreated. Initially, small bumps may emerge on the skin, appearing red or pink on lighter skin tones and dark brown on darker skin tones. These bumps tend to evolve into coin-shaped skin lesions characterized by itchiness, flakiness, or fissures.

The precise cause of nummular eczema remains elusive, although it may arise from underlying factors such as excessively dry skin. Individuals with pre-existing eczema, such as atopic dermatitis, are also more predisposed to developing nummular eczema.

7. Stasis dermatitis

Stasis dermatitis is more prevalent among individuals with poor circulation, as stated by the AAD. It occurs when fluid leaks from weakened veins into the skin, leading to various symptoms such as swelling, redness (in lighter skin tones), or changes in coloration (brown, purple, gray, or ashen in darker skin tones), itching, and pain.

Symptoms of stasis dermatitis predominantly affect the legs and ankles, often resulting in swelling, especially after extended periods of walking, along with sensations of heaviness or aching. Additional symptoms may encompass varicose veins, dry and itchy skin, as well as the formation of open sores.

Stasis dermatitis develops in individuals experiencing blood flow issues in their lower legs, typically due to malfunctioning valves that impede the normal upward flow of blood towards the heart, causing blood to accumulate in the legs.

Seeing a doctor

Seeking medical advice is crucial for anyone experiencing symptoms of eczema or any other skin condition. A dermatologist, a doctor specializing in skin health, can provide a proper diagnosis and recommend the most effective treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. Here are some key reasons why it’s important to see a doctor if you suspect you have eczema:

  1. Accurate Diagnosis: While many skin conditions may share similar symptoms, they can have different underlying causes and require different treatments. A dermatologist can accurately diagnose your condition and differentiate it from other similar conditions.
  2. Personalized Treatment: Eczema treatments can vary widely depending on the type, severity, and individual factors such as age, medical history, and lifestyle. A dermatologist can provide personalized treatment recommendations tailored to your specific circumstances.
  3. Prescription Medications: In some cases, over-the-counter treatments may not be sufficient to manage eczema symptoms effectively. A dermatologist can prescribe stronger medications or topical treatments to help control inflammation, itching, and other symptoms.
  4. Prevention of Complications: Untreated or poorly managed eczema can lead to complications such as skin infections, scarring, or psychological distress. A dermatologist can help prevent these complications by providing appropriate treatment and guidance on proper skincare practices.
  5. Monitoring and Follow-Up: Eczema is often a chronic condition that requires ongoing management and monitoring. Regular follow-up appointments with a dermatologist can ensure that your treatment plan is effective and adjusted as needed to maintain optimal skin health.
  6. Quality of Life Improvement: Living with eczema can significantly impact your quality of life, affecting your physical comfort, emotional well-being, and daily activities. By seeking medical advice and receiving proper treatment, you can improve your overall quality of life and better manage the challenges associated with eczema.

Remember that early intervention and proactive management are key to effectively controlling eczema symptoms and preventing complications. If you’re experiencing symptoms of eczema or any other skin concerns, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist for evaluation and treatment. Your skin health is worth prioritizing, and seeking professional medical advice is the first step toward achieving optimal skin wellness.


Treatment for eczema is multifaceted and contingent upon various factors, including the specific type of eczema, the severity of symptoms, and your overall health status. Your treatment regimen may encompass a blend of lifestyle modifications and medications, often requiring a trial-and-error approach to determine the most effective strategies for your individual needs.

Common treatments for eczema may involve:

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) medications like moisturizers, antihistamines, and soothing lotions.
  • Prescription medications such as topical corticosteroids or calcineurin inhibitors to manage inflammation and itching.
  • Injectable medications like biologics, prescribed in severe cases of eczema.
  • Phototherapy, which involves exposure to controlled amounts of ultraviolet light to alleviate symptoms.
  • At-home remedies including wet wrap therapy, colloidal oatmeal baths, and regular moisturizing to soothe and hydrate the skin.

In addition to treatment, implementing preventive measures can help mitigate the risk of eczema flare-ups. These may include maintaining proper skincare routines, avoiding triggers, managing stress, and adhering to a balanced diet. Working closely with a healthcare professional can assist in tailoring a comprehensive treatment plan to manage your eczema effectively.

Frequently asked questions

The seven different types of eczema include atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, neurodermatitis, nummular eczema, and stasis dermatitis. These encompass a range of inflammatory skin conditions with varying presentations and triggers.

While some types of eczema, such as atopic dermatitis and contact dermatitis, are relatively common, others like dyshidrotic eczema, neurodermatitis, and nummular eczema are less frequent and considered rarer.

The distinction between eczema and dermatitis lies in their terminology and scope. Eczema refers to a broader group of skin conditions characterized by inflammation, while dermatitis specifically denotes inflammation of the skin. Dermatitis can be a symptom of some types of eczema, but eczema typically encompasses additional symptoms such as dryness, itchiness, and the presence of skin lesions.

Various triggers may exacerbate eczema symptoms, including environmental factors like irritants, allergens, and pollutants, as well as psychological stress, dietary factors, smoking, certain medications, and underlying medical conditions. Identifying and avoiding these triggers can help manage and reduce eczema flare-ups.


The key takeaway regarding eczema is that while it’s a chronic condition without a cure, it can be effectively managed with the right approach. Here are the main points to remember:

  1. Understanding Eczema: Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a chronic inflammatory skin condition characterized by red, itchy, and inflamed patches of skin. It can vary in severity and may be triggered by a combination of genetic, environmental, and immune system factors.
  2. Treatment Options: Treatment for eczema includes a variety of approaches such as moisturizers to hydrate the skin, topical corticosteroids or calcineurin inhibitors to reduce inflammation, oral antihistamines to relieve itching, and lifestyle modifications to avoid triggers. In severe cases, phototherapy or biologic medications may be recommended.
  3. Personalized Care: Each individual’s experience with eczema is unique, so it’s important to work closely with a dermatologist or healthcare professional to develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses specific needs and concerns. This may involve trying different treatments and making adjustments over time to find what works best.
  4. Self-Care Practices: In addition to medical treatment, practicing good skincare habits such as moisturizing regularly, avoiding harsh soaps or detergents, and managing stress can help minimize eczema symptoms and prevent flare-ups.
  5. Early Intervention: Seeking medical advice early and proactively managing eczema can help prevent complications and improve overall quality of life. If you suspect you have eczema or are experiencing symptoms, don’t hesitate to consult with a dermatologist for proper diagnosis and treatment.

By understanding eczema, exploring treatment options, and working closely with healthcare professionals, individuals can effectively manage their symptoms and minimize the impact of eczema on their daily lives.