Eczema is a common term that people use for different skin conditions.1
But it’s not a catch-all.
According to the National Eczema Association, there are seven different types of eczema.1 Getting to know them can help you better understand your symptoms, what causes them, and the best way to treat them.
The symptoms of your AD often overlap with other forms of eczema, so it may be tricky to tell which one you have.
Atopic dermatitis is the most common form of eczema, impacting 15-20% of children and around 1–3% of adults worldwide.2 It’s characterised by a widespread and often debilitating itch.3 AD is caused, in part, by an imbalance within the immune system, potentially influenced by genetic predispositions and environmental factors, leading to underlying inflammation beneath your skin.2,3 In adults, AD signs and symptoms mostly appear on your face, neck, upper arms and back, elbow and knee creases, feet, fingers, toes, and on the back of your hands.4
Contact dermatitis, unlike AD, doesn’t run in families and isn’t linked to other allergic conditions such as hay fever or asthma.5 It’s typically identified by irritation or inflammation after coming into contact with certain substances that trigger an allergic reaction, which may then cause a flare.5
Dyshidrotic eczema manifests as small, intensely itchy blisters on the palms of your hands, soles of your feet, and the edges of your fingers and toes.6 It’s usually more common if you have another type of eczema already, and tends to run in families.6
Neurodermatitis is sometimes used as an equivalent term for AD, however, others use it to describe a form of eczema that is confined to one or two areas that look like patches on your skin - unlike AD, which can be more widespread across the body.7 It’s most common on your feet, ankles, hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck, and scalp.7 Patches can appear thick and leathery, developing pronounced skin lines, scales, and red, brown or grey discolouration.7
Nummular (discoid) eczema presents as scattered, circular, often coin-shaped, and itchy patches that sometimes ooze.8 It can also develop as a reaction to other types of eczema.8
Seborrheic dermatitis is characterised by redness, swelling, and greasy scaling.9 It appears on the skin where there are a lot of oil-producing (sebaceous) glands, like the upper back, nose, and scalp.9
Stasis (gravitational) dermatitis occurs when there is poor circulation in the lower legs due to the veins not working efficiently, and usually affects people over the age of 50.10 This may generate the common symptoms associated with eczema, like itching and dryness.10
Because the term eczema covers so many different skin conditions, your doctor or dermatologist will examine your signs and symptoms and diagnose what type of eczema you may have. There are things that your dermatologist will consider:
They can answer your questions and help you find the right treatment for you to ease your eczema symptoms.
National Eczema Association. An Overview of the Different Types of Eczema. Available at: https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/types-of-eczema/. Accessed: July 2021.
AJMC. Overview of Atopic Dermatitis. Available at: https://www.aimc.com/view/overview-of-atopic-dermatitis-article Accessed: July 2021.
National Eczema Association. Atopic Dermatitis. Available at: https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/types-of-eczema/atopic-dermatitis/ Accessed: July 2021.
Skin of Color Society. Eczema. Available at: https://skinofcolorsociety.org/dermatology-education/eczema/ Accessed: July 2021.
National Eczema Association. Contact Dermatitis. Available at: https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/types-of-eczema/contact-dermatitis/ Accessed: July 2021.
National Eczema Association. Dyshidrotic Eczema. Available at: https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/types-of-eczema/dyshidrotic-eczema/ Accessed: July 2021.
National Eczema Association. Neurodermatitis. Available at: https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/types-of-eczema/neurodermatitis/ Accessed: July 2021.
National Eczema Association. Nummular Eczema. Available at: https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/types-of-eczema/nummular-eczema/ Accessed: July 2021.
National Eczema Association. Seborrheic Dermatitis. Available at: https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/types-of-eczema/seborrheic-dermatitis/ Accessed: July 2021.
National Eczema Association. Stasis Dermatitis. Available at: https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/types-of-eczema/stasis-dermatitis/ Accessed: July 2021.
National Eczema Association. Conditions Related to Eczema. Available at: https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/related-conditions/ Accessed: July 2021.
Brown SJ. J Pathol 2017; 241(2): 140-145.