Eczema Types: Warning Signs and What to Do
We've all experienced dry, itchy skin at some time in our lives, along with rashes such as hives and poison ivy. But if you're among the more than 30 million Americans who deal with red, itchy, flaky skin on a regular basis, you likely suffer from eczema. It can appear on any part of the body and has flare-ups that make its symptoms worse. Along with what was mentioned above, eczema can make your skin blister, peel, and weep, the latter of which means your skin is infected.
The exact cause of eczema isn't truly known, but things such as genetics and environmental factors contribute to it. If an allergen or irritant disrupts the immune system, the skin begins to inflame and boom, eczema. There are varying types of eczema and they present themselves in different ways. If you're an eczema sufferer and want to know what type of condition fits you, or you suspect you may be in its clutches, read on, and see why type you have.
types of Eczema: Which One Do You Have?
Atopic dermatitis: This is the most common form of eczema. In fact, it's the kind most people have when they state they have eczema. Typically, atopic dermatitis begins during childhood and gets milder or disappears altogether by adulthood, but you can also get this form of eczema as an adult. If you suspect you have atopic dermatitis, keep a lookout for the following symptoms:
- A rash that often forms in the creases of your elbows or knees. It can also form on other areas of the body. In babies, it will normally appear on their scalp or cheeks.
- The areas of your skin that have this rash will look darker or lighter than the rest of your skin. Your skin may also get thicker.
- Small bumps might appear in the affected areas and could leak fluid if you scratch them.
- Your skin is at risk for infection if you scratch it.
As the name suggests, this type of eczema occurs when your skin comes in contact with an allergen or irritant, such as certain chemicals or metals. Unlike most forms of eczema, this type can be cured altogether once you're away from the allergen or irritant, and receive the proper treatment. If you suspect you have contact dermatitis, keep a look out for the following symptoms:
- Your skin is red, itchy, and may burn or sting.
- You might break out in hives.
- Fluid-filled blisters may form on your skin that can ooze and/or crust over.
- Your skin may thicken and feel scaly and/or leathery over time.
This type of eczema presents itself as small, fluid-filled blisters on your fingers, toes, the palms of your hands, and the soles of your feet. These blisters may either itch or hurt and your skin will crack, flake, or become scaly. Dyshidrotic eczema is more common in women, but men can also develop this type of eczema. It has various causes, including:
- Allergies, ranging from seasonal ones such as hay fever, to exposure to metals like nickel.
- Damp hands and feet, especially if you're in the water often.
As the name suggests, this type of eczema appears only on your hands. If you're a hairdresser or work in a career field where you handle lots of different chemicals, you're more prone to hand eczema. Symptoms of this type of eczema include:
- Red, itchy, and dry hands.
- Cracks or blisters may form.
Neurodermatitis: This type of eczema is similar to atopic dermatitis, in that thick, scaly patches appear on your skin. People who have other types of eczema or psoriasis are prone to getting neurodermatitis. It's not known what exactly causes neurodermatitis, but stress can be a factor. Symptoms of neurodermatitis include:
- Thick, scaly patches that form on your arms, legs, back of your neck, scalp, bottoms of your feet, the backs of your hands, or even your genitals.
- Extreme itchiness, especially when you're asleep or relaxing.
- The patches bleeding and/or getting infected from excessive itching.
Also known as discoid eczema and nummular dermatitis, this is a common form of eczema that can be contracted by people of all ages. It presents differently from other forms of eczema, with coin-shaped spots appearing on the skin. It's also more difficult to treat. Nummular eczema is said to be triggered by insect bites, dry skin and skin inflammations. Along with round, coin-shaped spots appearing on the skin, its symptoms include:
- Dry and scaly skin.
- Wet and open sores on the skin.
This is a chronic form of eczema that appears where there are a lot of oil-producing (or sebaceous) glands on the body. This includes places such as the upper back, nose, or scalp. Seborrheic dermatitis on the latter is commonly known as dandruff.
Seborrheic dermatitis isn't caused by an allergy, unlike other types of eczema. Its exact cause isn't known, but genes and hormones play a role, as well as yeast that lives on your skin. People of any age can develop seborrheic dermatitis, including babies (which is commonly referred to as "cradle cap"), though it's more common in men than women. People with autoimmune diseases such as AIDS or Parkinson's are the most at risk for seborrheic dermatitis.
The symptoms for this type of eczema vary, depending on where it appears on your body. Here are the common things to look out for:
- Skin redness.
- Greasy and swollen skin.
- Yellow and greasy scales on the skin.
- White or yellow crusty flakes (typically on the scalp and also known as dandruff).
Also known as venous eczema, venous stasis dermatitis, and gravitational dermatitis, this type of eczema occurs in people who have problems with blood flow in the veins (mainly in the legs). As a result, pressure develops and fluid leaks out of the veins and into the skin. Symptoms of stasis dermatitis include:
- Swelling in the lower part of your legs, especially when doing a lot of walking.
- Achy legs, along with feeling as if they’re heavy.
- Varicose veins in your legs, which are enlarged veins that are overfilled with blood, are painful and are red or bluish-purple in color.
- Dry and itchy skin over those varicose veins.
- Open sores on your lower legs or the tops of your feet.
Regardless of the type of eczema you might have, keep in mind that its symptoms can be managed with medicines, lotions, avoiding certain triggers such as allergens, and much more. Be sure to talk with your doctor about a management plan that's right for you.