There are many different types of eczema & they can be caused by a number of triggers. A pre-existing tendency towards dry skin can be a factor, as the dryness makes the skin more susceptible to triggers. These include irritants in cleaning products (soap, detergent, washing-up liquid, shampoo, bubble bath), environmental allergens (house dust mites, pet dander), climate factors (weather that is especially dry, damp, or cold), food allergies (dairy, eggs, wheat, soy), synthetic fabrics making contact with the skin, stress, hormonal changes, & skin infections.
- Atopic eczema: this type of eczema can be widespread or localised, with the skin becoming red, itchy, cracked, sore, & dry. It is most commonly found on the hands, inner elbows, & backs of the knees, or in children, on the face & scalp, & tends to be chronic. Sometimes atopic eczema can become infected, in which case the symptoms will be a general worsening of the rash, fluid oozing from the eczema patches, yellowish-white spots or yellow crust on the skin surface, swelling or soreness of the skin, & a fever.
- Contact dermatitis: the skin becomes dry, red, blistered, & cracked in response to an allergen, with symptoms developing within a few hours or days of exposure.
- Seborrheic dermatitis: the main symptom is a flaky, itchy, raised red rash & this can affect the face, scalp, ears, eyebrows, & eyelids.
Discoid eczema: in this condition, the rash features round patches of raised, red, swollen, & sometimes cracked skin, typically appearing on the forearms, torso, & lower legs.
- Dyshidrotic eczema (pompholyx eczema): usually found on the hands & feet, with symptoms of intense itching, & small blisters that may grow larger and, if they become infected, become swollen, painful, & filled with pus.
- Varicose eczema: also known as venous, gravitational, or stasis eczema, & is common in older people who have varicose veins. Symptoms affect the lower legs & include itchy blisters or spots, dry skin, scaly, weepy, or crusty patches of skin, cracked skin, & particularly thin, fragile skin on the lower legs which can break if the rash is scratched.
- Asteatotic eczema: usually only affects people 60 years of age & older. Symptoms are very dry, cracked skin which shows pink or red grooves, with scaling, itchiness, & pain.
Eczema (dermatitis) is a group of skin conditions that cause dry, itchy, cracked, & red skin. Symptoms will vary depending on the patient. It can be short-term (if caused by allergy, it will clear up if the allergen can be avoided) or chronic (long-term). Eczema is not contagious. The word ‘eczema’ derives from the Greek language, in which the word (ἔκζεμα) means “to boil over”.
In general, the symptoms of different types of eczema can come & go, & flare up at times. The severity of the symptoms will depend on the cause & type of eczema, & the most common factors include itching, dry, sensitive skin, discolouration, oozing, crusting, redness, & swelling.