What are the different types of eczema?

There are many different types of eczema – common ones include:
  • atopic eczema (also called atopic dermatitis)
  • discoid eczema
  • seborrhoeic eczema 
  • pompholyx eczema
  • contact eczema
The young people we spoke to mainly talked about atopic and discoid eczema.
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Most people we talked to didn’t name a specific type of eczema. Instead, people usually talked about severity (e.g. from mild to severe) and the different parts of their body affected. Aman only knew what kind of eczema he had when he went to see a dermatologist (a doctor specialising in skin). The treatments are usually the same across the different types of eczema.
Eczema subtype: atopic (allergy-related)

Most eczema is ‘atopic’ (allergy-related), especially in young people, and it is very common in families with a history of asthma or hay fever. Someone who is ‘atopic’ is sensitive to having allergies (when in contact with an ‘allergen’ it causes a person’s immune system to have a big response). Only Laura, Aman and Aisha used the words ‘atopic eczema’ but many people talked about specific triggers and health conditions (like asthma, allergies and hay fever) linked with this type of eczema. Some people had heard that eczema, asthma and allergies were linked but they weren’t sure if this was medically correct. Alice remembers hearing about a link as a child but she hadn’t been told about it or looked it up since.
Some people believed that they had allergy-based triggers for their eczema and tested these out by ‘trial-and-error’. Some had asked for allergy tests but been told by their doctors that they couldn’t have one done (for more on why this is, see the section on triggers).
Some people described their eczema getting worse because of certain things (irritants), such as the weather/temperature suddenly changing or living in a damp house, and allergies. A few people said that some of their eczema triggers affected people without eczema too, such as skin reactions to metals used in cheap jewellery. Shams said that some of his food allergies have faded away with time but dust still causes his skin to react. See also, ‘Eczema triggers: what can make eczema worse?’.
Eczema subtype: discoid 

Discoid eczema is a kind of eczema that often looks red and flaky and appears in circular patches or clusters on the skin. It is sometimes confused for another skin condition because it looks different to ‘typical’ eczema. Evie developed some discoid eczema on her legs a few months ago as well as having eczema on other parts of her body, such as her hands and feet. Evie said that she felt more self-conscious about having discoid eczema because it looked different to ‘typical eczema’ and so other people might not understand what it is. The topic of having eczema which is different in some way to what is assumed to be ‘normal’ is also discussed in the ‘Eczema and different areas of skin’ section.

The British Association of Dermatologists websites offers ‘Patient Information Leaflets’ for more detailed information on the types of eczema.


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