Eczema is a group of skin conditions that cause inflammation of the skin. Eczema is not caused by an infection. The condition may be temporary or chronic, mild or, in rare instances, very serious.
Serious cases usually occur when:
Atopic dermatitis is the prevalent form of chronic eczema. It is a genetically inherited condition that tends to run in families who also suffer from hay fever and asthma. Atopic dermatitis will affect about 10% to 20% of people at some point in their lives.
Dyshidrotic eczema occurs on the palms of the hands, sides of the fingers, and the soles of the feet, and it is associated with itching and blisters.
Nummular dermatitis is a type of eczema that normally affects older adults. Round patches of scaly, inflamed skin may appear anywhere on the body, most commonly on the legs. Winter is the peak period for this condition. It tends to strike dry skin.
Stasis dermatitis (or gravitational eczema) affects the lower legs of older adults. It is basically a poor circulation problem, usually due to blood not being able to get out of the legs well. It is caused by varicose veins.
Genetic inheritance plays a major role in most forms of eczema.
Atopic dermatitis is an inherited oversensitivity of the immune system. Genes play a role in allergies too, though it usually takes prolonged exposure to a given allergen before it becomes a nuisance.
Of course, there are some chemicals that will irritate any skin. Harsh irritants can give anyone a temporary bout of contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis may be caused by irritants or allergens.
Stasis dermatitis is caused by poor circulation in the lower extremities. Fluid builds up in the capillaries due to raised blood pressure. This causes inflammation of the skin.
Atopic dermatitis appears as red, itchy, dry skin. It tends to first appear in childhood, and may disappear completely before adulthood. It most often affects the area behind the knees and around the elbows, as well as the face. In infants, it often appears on the chest, face, scalp, and neck. Atopic people who contract the herpes simplex virus can be struck by eczema herpeticum, a serious secondary infection of the inflamed skin that causes a worsened rash and fever.
Dyshidrotic eczema can cause blisters on the palms of the hands, sides of the fingers, and soles of the feet. The skin will feel itchy or you may feel a burning sensation, and it can crack or peel.
Nummular eczema appears as itchy, red, coin-shaped areas with discharge on the limbs and torso.
Stasis dermatitis appears as inflamed, scaly skin around the lower legs and ankles. Over time, it may turn dark brown.