Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- Eczema facts
- What is eczema?
- What are the causes of eczema?
- What are risk factors for eczema?
- What are eczema symptoms and signs in babies, children, and adults?
- What are the different types of eczema?
- How is eczema diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for eczema?
- Can eczema be prevented?
- What are the possible complications of eczema?
- What is the prognosis (outlook) for eczema?
What are the different types of eczema?
Atopic dermatitis is the most common of the many types of eczema. There are many terms used to describe specific forms of eczema that may have very similar symptoms to atopic dermatitis. These are listed and briefly described below.
Atopic dermatitis is a chronic skin disease characterized by itchy, inflamed skin and is the most common cause of eczema. The condition tends to come and go, depending upon exposures to triggers or causative factors. Factors that may worsen atopic dermatitis include environmental factors like molds, pollen, or pollutants; contact irritants like soaps, detergents, nickel (in jewelry), or perfumes; food allergies; or other allergies. Around two-thirds of those who develop the condition do so prior to 1 year of age. When the disease starts in infancy, it is sometimes termed infantile eczema. Atopic dermatitis tends to run in families, and people who develop the condition often have a family history of allergic conditions such as asthma or hay fever.
Contact eczema (contact dermatitis) is a localized reaction that includes redness, itching, and burning in areas where the skin has come into contact with an allergen (an allergy-causing substance to which an individual is sensitized) or with a general irritant such as an acid, a cleaning agent, or other chemical. Other examples of contact eczema include reactions to laundry detergents, soaps, nickel (present in jewelry), cosmetics, fabrics, and perfume. Due to the vast number of substances with which individuals have contact, it can be difficult to determine the trigger for contact dermatitis. The condition is sometimes referred to as allergic contact eczema (allergic contact dermatitis) if the trigger is an allergen and irritant contact eczema (irritant contact dermatitis) if the trigger is an irritant. Skin reactions to poison ivy and poison sumac are examples of allergic contact eczema. People who have a history of allergies have an increased risk for developing contact eczema.
Seborrheic eczema (seborrheic dermatitis) is a form of skin inflammation of unknown cause. The signs and symptoms of seborrheic eczema include yellowish, oily, scaly areas of skin on the scalp, face, and occasionally other parts of the body. Dandruff and "cradle cap" in infants are examples of seborrheic eczema. It is commonplace for seborrheic dermatitis to inflame the face at the creases of the cheeks and/or the nasal folds. Seborrheic dermatitis is not necessarily associated with itching. This condition tends to run in families. Emotional stress, oily skin, and infrequent shampooing may all increase a person's risk of developing seborrheic eczema. One type of seborrheic eczema is also common in people with AIDS.
Nummular eczema (nummular dermatitis) is characterized by coin-shaped areas of irritated skin -- most commonly located on the arms, back, buttocks, and lower legs -- that may be crusted, scaling, and extremely itchy. This form of eczema is relatively uncommon and occurs most frequently in elderly men. Nummular eczema is usually a chronic condition. A personal or family history of atopic dermatitis, asthma, or allergies increases the risk of developing the condition.
Neurodermatitis, also known as lichen simplex chronicus, is a chronic skin inflammation caused by a scratch-itch cycle that begins with a localized itch (such as an insect bite) that becomes intensely irritated when scratched. Women are more commonly affected by neurodermatitis than men, and the condition is most frequent in people 20-50 years of age. This form of eczema results in scaly and crusted areas of skin on the head, lower legs, wrists, or forearms. Over time, the skin can become thickened and leathery. Stress can exacerbate the symptoms of neurodermatitis.
Stasis dermatitis is a skin irritation on the lower legs, generally related to the circulatory problem known as venous insufficiency, in which the function of the valves within the veins has been compromised. Stasis dermatitis occurs almost exclusively in middle-aged and elderly people, with approximately 6% to 7% of the population over 65 years of age being affected by the condition. The risk of developing stasis dermatitis increases with advancing age. Symptoms and signs include itching and/or reddish-brown discoloration of the skin on one or both legs. Progression of the condition can lead to the blistering, oozing skin lesions seen with other forms of eczema, and ulcers may develop in affected areas. The chronic circulatory problems lead to an increase in fluid buildup (edema) in the legs.
Dyshidrotic eczema (dyshidrotic dermatitis) is an irritation of the skin on the hands and soles of the feet characterized by clear, deep blisters that itch and burn. The cause of dyshidrotic eczema is unknown, although stress may be a precipitating factor is some people. Dyshidrotic eczema is also known as vesicular palmoplantar dermatitis, dyshidrosis, or pompholyx. This form of eczema occurs in up to 20% of people with hand eczema and is more common during the spring and summer months and in warmer climates. Males and females are equally affected, and the condition can occur in people of any age.
Next: How is eczema diagnosed?
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