Eczema is a fairly common skin condition that affects about 20 percent of children and up to 3 percent of adults worldwide. It is identified as a reaction pattern —typically red, raised blisters — the skin produces. Eczema is connected to a gene variation that affects the skin’s ability to provide protection, leaving it exposed to environmental factors, such as irritants and allergens.
There are actually 11 different types of eczema, identified by the distribution of the eruption and where it is located on the skin. The different types of eczema include:
- Atopic dermatitis – this is the most common form of eczema. It begins early in life in those with predispositions to inhalant allergies, but it doesn’t necessarily have an allergic basis.
- Irritant dermatitis – this occurs when skin is repeatedly exposed to excessive washing or toxic substances.
- Allergic contact dermatitis – this occurs after repeated exposures to the same substance. The body’s immune recognition system becomes activated at the site of the next exposure and produces dermatitis.
- Stasis dermatitis – this commonly occurs on swollen lower legs of people who have poor circulation in the veins of the legs.
- Fungal infections – this produces a pattern identical to many types of eczema, but is identified by the fungus that is found with a scraping under a microscope or grown in culture.
- Scabies – caused by the infestation of human itch mites, this may produce rashes very similar to other forms of eczema.
- Pompholyx – this common, poorly understood condition affects the hands and occasionally the feet by producing an itchy rash composed of tiny blisters on the sides of fingers and toes or palms and soles.
- Lichen simplex chrincul – identified by the thickened sections of skin that are found on the shins and neck.
- Nummular eczema – nonspecific term for coin-shaped sections of scaly skin most often found on the lower legs of older individuals.
- Xerotic eczema – identified by excessive dryness of the skin that results in cracking and oozing.
- Seborrheic dermatitis – produces a rash on the scalp, face, ears and mid-chest area in adults; in infants, it can produce weepy, oozy rash behind ears and can be quite extensive.
If you’re not sure if you have eczema, here are a few of the symptoms to look out for:
- Dry, itchy skin
- Elevated sections of red, bumpy skin
- Thickened, cracked skin
Now that you know the types of eczema you can have as well as some of the symptoms to watch out for, the next step is treating it. You should always consult your dermatologist first before beginning any type of treatment plan. While treatment options vary from steroids to topical solutions, your treatment is entirely dependent on the type and scale of eczema you have.