Every day, people all over the world deal with the itchiness and dry skin caused by eczema. For many eczema patients, it’s more than just a minor annoyance—the symptoms can turn everyday activities into a struggle.
What is Eczema?
At its core, eczema is more than just occasional dry skin. It can cause persistent and intense itching, resulting in red, inflamed patches of skin. Sometimes, these patches can even blister or seep.
But what’s going on beneath the surface?
Our skin is our body’s first line of defense against the outside world. It works like a dynamic shield that keeps moisture in and harmful elements out. In patients that experience eczema, this barrier doesn’t work as well as it should. This dysfunction leads to a decrease in moisture retention and a weakened defense against irritants and allergens. As a result, the skin becomes dry, itchy, and prone to irritation and infection.
Eczema is closely linked with inflammation. When the skin barrier is compromised, the body’s immune response can go into overdrive, leading to skin inflammation. This is what causes the red, itchy, and painful patches commonly associated with eczema.
Eczema vs. Dermatitis
The term “eczema” is often used interchangeably with “dermatitis,” which broadly refers to skin inflammation. However, eczema is a specific type of dermatitis.
There are various forms of dermatitis, each with its own triggers and characteristics, but eczema specifically refers to a group of conditions that cause the skin to become itchy, inflamed, and sometimes develop rashes.
Furthermore, there is more than one type of eczema, each with its own symptoms.
The 7 Types of Eczema
Every kind of eczema comes with its own set of triggers and symptoms, so it’s important to know how they differ. It’s also possible to experience more than one type of eczema simultaneously. It’s vital to consult with a dermatologist to identify your specific type(s) of eczema and devise an effective management plan.
Let’s take a closer look at each of the seven types of eczema:
Atopic dermatitis is often what comes to mind when we talk about eczema. This type is most common in children but can persist or appear in adulthood. Its hallmarks are chronic inflammation, dryness, and intense itching. Atopic dermatitis can be particularly distressing due to its persistent nature and the discomfort it brings.
Contact dermatitis, or allergic contact dermatitis, emerges when the skin reacts to external irritants or allergens. This reaction can manifest as red, inflamed, and itchy skin, often at the site of contact. Common triggers include certain metals, fragrances, and even some plants.
Dyshidrotic eczema mainly affects the hands and feet with small, itchy blisters that are often accompanied by a burning sensation. The skin may become dry and flaky as the blisters heal, making this condition both painful and irritating.
Also known as discoid eczema, neurodermatitis targets specific skin patches, making them itchy and scaly. These patches often appear on the arms, legs, back of the neck, scalp, bottoms of the feet, backs of the hands, and genitals. The intense itching caused by neurodermatitis can disrupt sleep and daily activities.
Nummular eczema, or nummular dermatitis, presents as round, coin-shaped spots on the skin. These lesions are often itchy and can be scaly or inflamed. They’re typically found on the arms and legs, though they can appear anywhere on the body.
Seborrheic dermatitis primarily affects areas with a high concentration of oil-producing glands, such as the scalp. It can lead to flaky skin (often mistaken for dandruff), redness, and sometimes yellowish scales. Seborrheic dermatitis can also affect the face and chest.
Stasis dermatitis usually occurs on the lower legs and is often related to circulatory problems. Symptoms include discolored skin, itching, and sometimes even ulcers. This type of dermatitis can look like varicose veins and is more common in older adults.
Understand Your Eczema with Franks Dermatology
While it’s often diagnosed in childhood, eczema can emerge at any age. The symptoms of eczema can resemble other conditions, so it’s crucial to get an accurate diagnosis. Diagnosing eczema typically involves a physical exam that focuses closely on your skin. Allergy tests, blood tests, or even a skin biopsy may also be used to rule out other causes and confirm eczema.
The team at Franks Dermatology will equip you with the knowledge you need to effectively manage your specific type of eczema. If you have concerns about your skin, call (501) 246-1042 to make an appointment with our experienced team of dedicated providers in Little Rock.