There are different types of eczema that can affect the sufferer in different ways:
Atopic Eczema: This is the most common form of eczema, characterised by red inflammation and bumps on the skin’s surface. It is primarily seen in children but can affect people of all ages. Fortunately, most kids will grow out of this type of eczema by their teenage years. The term ‘atopic’ refers to the fact that it generally has an unknown cause. These conditions are usually hereditary, although they are not always passed directly from parent to baby and may skip a generation.
Atopic eczema will present itself as an itch that chiefly affects the creases and folds of the body, such as the inside of the elbows, backs of knees and the hands. It is also known to affect the armpits, breasts, nipples, wrists, mouth, lips, neck, fingers and eyelids. This itch can become dry and red, with flare-ups occurring in small patches or all over the body. Spontaneous flare-ups are usually the result of an external trigger, the most common being: soaps, pollens, animal dander, overheating, house-dust mites, stress and harsh clothing.
Contact dermatitis: This is sometimes referred to as contact eczema. Contact dermatitis affects around 10% of the UK population making it the most common type of work related skin disease. This form of eczema can cause red, itchy and scaly skin that can sometimes sting and burn. It can lead to the skin becoming dry, cracked and blistered. Contact dermatitis can affect any part of the body, though the most commonly affected area tends to be the hands and knuckles.
Most cases of contact dermatitis are caused by the skin coming into contact with irritants, substances that physically damage the skin. Examples of these are detergents, soaps, antiseptics, perfumes and solvents. These irritants account for approximately eight out of ten cases of contact dermatitis. Another cause comes in the form of an allergen, which is a substance that causes the body’s immune system to react in a way that affects the skin.
Seborrhoeic eczema: This form of eczema affects the areas of the body that contain a large number of sebaceous glands, such as the scalp and the sides of the nose. It is characterised by a red rash or in case of the scalp; dandruff. It most commonly affects the scalp and face but it can spread to the centres of the chest and back. The armpits, under the breasts, groin, genitals and in between the buttocks can also be affected. The cause of seborrheic eczema isn’t fully understood. It is thought to be caused by a yeast known as pityrosporum ovale. This yeast is found on the skin of those affected by seborrheic eczema, however it is unclear whether the yeast is the sole cause or just a contributing factor to this form of dermatitis.
Less common types
Discoid eczema: This is sometimes referred to as nummular dermatitis and is usually found in adults with dry skin. This form of eczema presents as coin shaped discs of affected skin that are roughly the size of a two-pound coin. These discs have a slightly bumpy texture before they begin to ooze and crust over. The surface of the discs can then become scaly before the centre of the discs clears, leaving the skin dry and flaky. Discoid eczema will usually affect the lower legs, forearms or trunk. As with other forms of eczema the exact causes of nummular dermatitis is unclear. However, most sufferers presenting with the condition tend to have dry skin.
Gravitational eczema: This is sometimes referred to as varicose or stasis dermatitis. This form of eczema affects the lower legs and is more commonly experienced in later life. Poor circulation, blood clots and varicose veins put a person more at risk of developing this condition. Gravitation eczema will appear as dark red or brown patches under the outer layer of skin. As the condition progresses the skin becomes very thin and fragile and can easily break down, potentially causing an ulcer. In more severe cases the skin can start to weep, causing larger areas to crust over, leading to a varicose leg ulcer. This form of eczema is the result of poor circulation, which causes an increased pressure in the lower legs, leading to blood leaking through the very small vessels in the legs.
Asteatotic eczema: This is sometime referred to as eczema cracquele. This form of dermatitis will in most cases only affect those over the age of sixty years. Asteatotic eczema will present as small islands of dry rough skin clustered closely together. The appearance resembles ‘crazy paving’ with red and pink fissures or grooves separating each ‘slab’. Sufferers will experience soreness and itching in the affected areas. This type of eczema will initially occur on the shins but can be found on the upper arms, lower back and thighs as well. Asteatotic eczema is thought to be caused by a significant decrease in the oils on the skin’s surface. This may be the result of over cleansing or vigorous scrubbing. Low humidity can also contribute to developing the condition.
Pompholyx eczema: This can sometimes be referred to as dyshidrotic eczema. The main symptom of this form of eczema is a blistering that is confined to the hands and feet. These blisters are mainly found along the sides of the fingers and on the palms of the hand. In feet, they are predominantly found on the soles. The skin will be inflamed and feel very itchy. The blisters are prone to breaking and weeping with the skin beginning to peel as it starts to dry out.