The meaning of the word “eczema” can
cause confusion. Many people use this word to refer to a common skin
condition called atopic dermatitis. When this is the meaning, the
words “eczema/atopic dermatitis” may be used.
The word “eczema” also has a more general meaning. Eczema can mean a
family of skin conditions that causes the skin to become swollen,
irritated, and itchy.
Many skin conditions are considered a type of eczema. Atopic
dermatitis is one type. Other types include hand dermatitis,
nummular dermatitis, and seborrheic dermatitis. Dandruff is a mild
type of seborrheic dermatitis. Diaper rash and the rash that many
people get after coming into contact with poison ivy are other types
What Eczema Looks Like
Jewelry can irritate the skin,
causing the skin to become red and irritated. This woman
developed a type of eczema called allergic contact
This 7-year-old girl has atopic
dermatitis, a common type of eczema that usually begins by
Nummular dermatitis is a type
of eczema that causes coin-shaped lesions on the skin.
What Causes Eczema?
What causes some types of eczema is
clear-cut. One type of eczema, irritant contact dermatitis, develops
after frequent exposure to a mild irritant such as a detergent or
brief exposure to a strong irritant such as battery acid. Another
type, allergic contact dermatitis develops when an allergen
(substance to which a person is allergic) touches the skin. Common
allergens include poison ivy and nickel. A nickel allergy is
actually one of the most common causes of allergic contact
dermatitis. Many everyday objects contain nickel, including coins,
buttons, jewelry, and eyeglass frames.
The exact cause of other types of eczema is not fully understood.
Researchers believe that atopic dermatitis develops when many
factors combine. These factors include inheriting certain genes,
having an overactive immune system, and having something that
dermatologists call a “barrier defect.” A barrier defect is a term
that means “gaps in the skin.” These gaps allow the skin to lose
water too quickly. The gaps also allow germs and other things too
small to see with the naked eye to enter the body.
Seborrheic dermatitis is another type of eczema that seems to
develop when a number of factors interact. These factors include the
person’s genes, yeast that live on human skin, stress, climate, and
overall general health. Research shows that seborrheic dermatitis
tends to be severe in people who have the human immunodeficiency
virus (HIV). This indicates that the person’s immune system plays a
How do Dermatologists Diagnose
If your dermatologist suspects any type
of eczema, the doctor will take a complete medical history, ask
about your (or your child’s) symptoms, and examine your (or your
child’s) skin. This provides enough information to accurately
diagnose many types of eczema.
If there are telltale signs that this is an allergic reaction, your
dermatologist may order a test called the “patch test.” Patch
testing can help identify everyday substances to which a person is
Sometimes eczema can be easy to diagnose, but a challenge to treat.
Teaming up with a dermatologist can help.
Types of Eczema
All content solely
developed by the American Academy of Dermatology
Living with Eczema
Submitted by an EczemaNet visitor
"Having eczema means living
with skin that is:
- Red all over
- Scaly and oozy
- Painful - It feels
that the skin is being stretched and torn when you
I have terrible
dandruff as well."