Eczema is an umbrella term for several skin conditions. The symptoms, location of the rash, and causes determine the type of eczema. The most common types occur in babies and small children, which are atopic dermatitis and seborrheic dermatitis.
Other types of eczema include contact dermatitis, nummular eczema, and varicose eczema.
Atopic dermatitis, also called atopic eczema is a non-contagious, allergic skin condition seen most often in young children and infants. It affects roughly 15 percent of the U.S. population. The rash usually starts on the cheeks, forehead, and scalp, but other body regions are also affected.
With atopic dermatitis, the skin itches, blisters, and weeps a clear fluid which can dry and form crust. This type of eczema is hereditary and occurs more often if the person has asthma and hay fever. It can be triggered by environmental factors, such as cigarette smoke, dust mites, pet dander, and pollen. Additionally allergies to certain foods can cause atopic dermatitis, including milk, wheat, eggs, soy, nuts, and seafood.
There are two forms of contact dermatitis: allergic contact dermatitis and irritant contact dermatitis. The rash associated with this form of eczema mostly affects the hands and lower arm regions. People who come in contact with chemicals and other substances often develop this condition.
Causes of allergic contact dermatitis include poison ivy, sumac, or oak, which contain urushiol oil, certain metals (like nickel), or exposure to latex. Causes of irritant contact dermatitis include exposure to pain, chlorine, solvents, and other substances. People at risk of this form of eczema include hairdressers, healthcare workers, dental workers, mechanics, painters, farmers, and food handlers. This form of eczema occurs in around 3 percent of the population.
Seborrheic dermatitis can appear during the first few weeks of life and is called cradle cap. While it mostly occurs on the scalp and face, it can occur on the arms, legs, and groin. The rash appears as a thick, greasy, scaling, which has reddened skin beneath the scales. Adults also develop this form of eczema, typically between the ages of 30 and 60 years. It affects various parts of the face and scalp, as well as the genitalia and body.
Seborrheic dermatitis affects around 2 to 4 percent of the adult population in America. It is very common and relatively easy to diagnose.
Often called discoid dermatitis, nummular eczema results in a unique rash that appears as coin-shaped or oval areas on the skin. This form of eczema is often mistaken for ringworm, and it is associated with injury to the skin, such as an abrasion, burn, or insect bite. Risk factors for nummular eczema include dry skin, decreased circulation, and skin trauma. Nummular eczema occurs only in around 1 percent of the population.
Varicose eczema is a common form of eczema that affects the lower legs and ankles. It is possibly related to poor circulation and occurs more often in middle-aged or older adults. With this form of eczema, the skin becomes itchy, red, and dry. Skin ulcerations can occur with varicose eczema, leading to an increased risk of infection. Experts estimate that varicose eczema occurs in as many as 4 percent of adults.
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