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Telephone: 404-851-1766 Toll Free: 866-851-5030

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Patient Education

Eczema (Dermatitis)

Eczema, also known as “dermatitis” or “eczematous dermatitis”, is a very common condition in which the skin becomes inflamed and itchy. The condition can show a variety of patterns and symptoms. The appearance of eczema can vary with its stage. Acute eczema often looks red and can show swelling, oozing, crusting, and blisters while chronic eczema makes the skin look darker with scaling and thickening (lichenification).   Subacute eczema has features in between acute and chronic eczema. There are many different types of eczema / dermatitis. Some of the most common types are listed below:


Atopic dermatitis is the most common type of eczema affecting 30 million Americans. It is thought to be an allergic disorder often associated with asthma and hay fever. It also often runs in families with a history of any of the above conditions. The condition usually begins in infancy or early childhood and tends to improve with age. However, in many patients, it is often a chronic condition that tends to have a waxing and waning course. Typical areas affected include the head and scalp, neck, inside the elbows, behind the knees, and buttocks. Patients with atopic dermatitis often tend to have dry itchy skin which is easily irritated. The irritated skin is also more susceptible to secondary superficial infections.


Contact dermatitis is a type of eczema which occurs when the skin comes in contact with certain substances. There are two types of contact dermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis and irritant contact dermatitis. Allergic contact dermatitis is an immune reaction to an allergen, such as poison ivy or nickel. Irritant contact dermatitis is a non-immune reaction resulting from solvents, industrial chemicals, detergents, or other substances that cause direct irritation to the skin. Contact dermatitis is most often seen in and around the parts of the body that came into contact with the irritant/allergen.


Nummular dermatitis, or discoid eczema, is characterized by round or coin-shaped patches of inflamed or scaly skin, most commonly on the lower legs. It is often associated with dry skin and is more typically seen in the winter months. The condition tends to come and go in most patients, usually lasting a few weeks to months. The cause of the condition is not known.


Seborrheic dermatitis is characterized by redness and scaling usually in the areas of the scalp, sides of the nose, eyebrows, eyelids, behind the ears, and mid chest. The scale tends to be oily or greasy and yellowish in color. The condition is often associated with dandruff. The cause of seborrheic dermatitis is unknown although it is thought to be a type of hypersensitivity reaction to yeasts (Malassezia species) that live on the skin.


Dyshidrotic eczema is a type of dermatitis that occurs on the hands and feet especially the palms, soles, and the sides of fingers and toes. It usually begins as very small bumps filled with fluid (vesicles). With time, the skin can become thickened and scaly and develop cracks and fissures. The condition is more common in women. This type of ezcema often worsens after contact with soap, water, or other irritating substances.


Xerotic or asteatotic eczema also known as “winter itch” results from the skin becoming extremely dry. It occurs in the setting of dry weather in the winter months. The condition often affects the legs and trunk. In severe cases, the skin can resemble a dry cracked river bed (“eczema craquele”).


Stasis dermatitis is a type of eczema occurring on the lower legs and ankles in people with a background of circulation problems such as varicose veins and chronic leg and foot swelling. The skin can be red to dark with scaling and itching. The condition can also be associated with leg ulcers.


Eczema is often a long term disorder requiring careful and continued management and treatment. Keeping the skin moist and avoiding irritants are of key importance in preventing flares of this condition. A variety of dermatologic treatments are available to treat eczema including topical steroids and other anti-inflammatory medications (tacrolimus, pimecrolimus). Antihistamine pills for itching and antibiotics for secondarily infected areas of eczema are also commonly used. In more severe cases, ultraviolet light treatments and immunosuppressive medications may be needed to control the condition.

logo-2 Finan Templeton Dermatopathology Associates 1200 Lake Hearn Drive, Suite 300     Atlanta, GA 30319     T: 404-851-1766