Eczema is a general term used to refer to a chronic skin condition that causes dry, itchy rashes and/or sore scaly patches. Eczema is affecting over 30 million people in the United States alone. Most individuals with eczema form red, scaly, and itchy plaques on certain parts of their body. In some cases, these plaques can lead to painful blisters, and if scratched, the affected skin incurs even more inflammation and may begin to ooze pus to eventually crust over.
Eczema varies in appearance as well, depending on its type and which area of the body it affects. In many cases, the condition is recurring, characterized by periods of outbreaks followed by remissions. Although the root cause of almost all types of eczema remains unknown, studies suggest a host of factors from genetic to environmental seem to play a part in its rise.
Most Common Eczema Types
Atopic Dermatitis. The most prevalent type of the condition is known as atopic dermatitis, which is synonymous with the term eczema. Atopic dermatitis typically develops in children under the age of 5, but it is not uncommon among adults.
The condition is characterized by red, dry, flaky, and itchy plaques that form on the scalp, face, hands, feet, and folds of the knees and elbows. When atopic dermatitis is severe, the eczema lesions can get cracked and crusty, sometimes resulting in infections.
People with this type of eczema go through cycles of outbreaks and remissions. In some children, the condition can lessen in severity with age, but atopic dermatitis is chronic by nature, commonly affecting those with a family history of eczema, asthma, and allergic rhinitis (hay fever).
Dyshidrotic Eczema. This eczema type—also referred to as pompholyx eczema—is characterized by pus-filled, itchy sores just below the outer layer of the skin, typically affecting the hands and feet. It results in redness, scaling, hardening, and fissures in the affected areas. Too much or prolonged exposure to water as well as stress seem to exacerbate dyshidrotic eczema.
Exposure to some types of metals, including nickel and chromium, can also contribute to flare-ups. This is a type of eczema that more commonly affects women, especially those with a history of allergic rhinitis or atopic dermatitis. Warm climates also seem to be a trigger for most people with this type of eczema experience symptoms in the spring and summer.
Nummular Eczema. This eczema type is characterized by circular, coin-sized patches of red, itchy clumps of spots, which can also get dry and flaky. Nummular eczema most commonly targets the arms and legs and is more common among men over a certain age than women. Individuals with dry skin are typically more prone to nummular eczema, particular in cold temperatures.
Similar to other eczema types, nummular eczema is also recurrent by nature. Physical trauma to the skin can result in the formation of new plaques, which could even be an insect bite. Moisturizing regularly to address the skin’s dryness is an effective way to keep outbreaks at bay.
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