Eczema Terms

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Allergens are substances that cause the body to react abnormally. Certain types of eczema are linked to allergic disease, like hay fever and asthma, and allergens like dust mites, pet dander, pollens, molds, dandruff, and food allergens (below) are among the factors that can cause flare‐ups and make symptoms worse.

Atopic dermatitis

With atopic dermatitis, the most common type eczema, our immune system overreacts to eczema triggers (below) that would not normally do us any harm. It almost always begins in childhood —usually in infancy — and is also the most severe and chronic (long‐lasting) kind. It often affects people who have asthma or hay fever, or a family history of either.



Baby eczema

Baby eczema is a general term that refers to atopic dermatitis cases in infants and toddlers. It is common, affecting 8.7%–18.1% of all children, and often starts within the first few months after birth.



Colloidal oatmeal

Colloidal oatmeal is a special pulverized form of oatmeal that, when combined with a liquid, acts as a “colloid,” forming a protective, moisturizing barrier on the skin. It’s known to be a versatile cleanser, moisturizer and buffer that naturally soothes and protects damaged skin.

Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is a form of eczema that occurs when the skin comes in contact with certain substances, causing skin inflammation. There are two types, irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis.

Cradle cap

“Cradle cap” refers to the incidence of seborrheic dermatitis (below) in babies, as it tends to affect the scalp. It can be easily confused with atopic dermatitis, but is scaly and significantly less red.




Commonly known as eczema, dermatitis refers to a set of unrelated chronic skin conditions characterized by itching and rashing. Atopic dermatitis is the most common type of eczema.

Discoid eczema

See “nummular eczema,” below.

Dyshidrotic eczema

Dyshidrotic eczema, or pompholyx, is a skin condition in which small fluid‐filled blisters called vesicles appear on fingers, hands and feet. The cause is unknown. It is twice as common in women. These blisters can be very itchy and also cause scaly patches of skin that flake or get red, cracked and painful.



Eczema trigger

“Eczema triggers” include factors in the environment like skin irritants, allergens, microbes, hot or cold temperatures, foods, and stress, which are linked to flare‐ups (below) and are thought to make symptoms of certain types of eczema worse.




A “flare‐up” simply describes the eczema rash becoming visible, along with other symptoms, typically due to allergens or other common eczema triggers. The eczema rash may look different or affect different parts of your body from time to time.

Food allergen

Food allergens are a type of allergen associated with atopic eczema causes, particularly before age one. Common food allergens include dairy products, eggs, nuts and seeds, soy products, and wheat.



Hand dermatitis

Hand dermatitis refers generally to a group of skin eczemas — including contact and dyshidrotic eczema — that affect areas of the hand. These account for 20–35% of all dermatitis, affect up to 10% of the population, and may occur at any age. There are various causes.



Itch‐scratch cycle

In what’s called the “itch‐scratch cycle” of eczema, which proper treatment can alleviate and prevent, itching may be so bad that you scratch your skin until it bleeds. This can make your rash even worse, leading to even more inflammation and itching.


Low/neutral pH

A chemical solution with a neutral pH is neither acidic nor alkaline. Pure water has a pH of 7.

To avoid skin irritation, it’s recommended to use low‐pH (less than 5.5) household soaps, shampoos and cleansers closer to skin’s natural pH levels. Additionally, fragrance‐free neutral pH detergents are recommended for washing clothes and other fabrics.



Neurodermatitis is an itchy skin disease similar to atopic dermatitis. It tends to result in focal patches due to frequent rubbing or scratching of the same area over time.

Nummular eczema

A common eczema, nummular dermatitis causes spots on skin that are often coin‐shaped and look very different than atopic dermatitis. It may be well defined, and may be very itchy or not itchy at all. Nummular eczema most frequently on the lower legs of older individuals, and more often in men than women.




See “dyshidrotic eczema,” above.



Seborrheic dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is a common skin condition similar to eczema that sometimes occurs in patients with eczema. It is known as “cradle cap” in infants (above).

Older children and adults can develop it on the scalp as well. In these cases, it is similar to dandruff but tends to be more itchy and inflamed. Treatment varies between infants and older patients, and can include medicated shampoos, topical antifungal creams and steroid lotions.

Skin irritant

An irritant that comes in direct contact with your skin and can make symptoms worse for both atopic and contact dermatitis. Common skin irritants include: artificial soaps, detergents, perfumes; alcohol‐containing cosmetics; rough and synthetic clothing; and household cleansers including shampoos, dishwashing liquids, detergents and disinfectants.

Stasis dermatitis

This type of eczema, sometimes called venous stasis dermatitis because it arises when there’s a problem with the veins, generally occurs in the lower legs.


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