What is eczema?

Eczema is a term for a group of medical conditions that cause the skin to become inflamed or irritated. The most common type of eczema is known as atopic dermatitis or atopic eczema. Atopic refers to a group of diseases with an often inherited tendency to develop other allergic conditions, such as asthma and hay fever.

Eczema is the name for a group of conditions that cause the skin to become red, itchy and inflamed. Eczema is very common.

Eczema is not contagious. You can’t “catch it” from someone else. While the exact cause of eczema is unknown, researchers do know that people who develop eczema do so because of a combination of genes and environmental triggers. When an irritant or an allergen from outside or inside the body “switches on” the immune system, it produces inflammation. It is this inflammation that causes the symptoms common to most types of eczema.

There are several different types of eczema that you should know about:

All types of eczema cause itching and redness, but some may also cause your skin to blister, “weep,” or peel.

It’s important to understand which type you or your child may have and also your symptoms and triggers so that you can best treat and manage your eczema. But the only way to be sure that you or your child has eczema and which type is to make an appointment with your doctor.

  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Contact dermatitis
  • Dyshidrotic eczema
  • Nummular eczema
  • Seborrheic dermatitis
  • Stasis dermatitis

Though there are several distinct types of eczema, it is possible to have more than one type at a time.

Atopic dermatitis is the most common form of eczema. It usually starts in childhood, and often gets milder or goes away by adulthood. Atopic dermatitis is part of what doctors call the atopic triad. “Triad” means three. The other two diseases in the triad are asthma and hay fever. Many people with atopic dermatitis have all three conditions.


the rash often forms in the creases of your elbows or knees
skin in areas where the rash appears may turn lighter or darker, or get thicker
small bumps may appear and leak fluid if you scratch them
babies often get the rash on their scalp and cheeks
your skin can get infected if you scratch it


Atopic dermatitis happens when your skin’s natural barrier against the elements is weakened. This means your skin is less able to protect you against irritants and allergens. Atopic dermatitis is likely caused by a combination of factors such as:

dry skin
an immune system problem
triggers in the environment

If you have red, irritated skin that’s caused by a reaction to substances you touch, you may have contact dermatitis. It comes in two types: Allergic contact dermatitis is an immune system reaction to an irritant like latex or metal. Irritant contact dermatitis starts when a chemical or other substance irritates your skin.


your skin itches, turns red, burns, and strings
itchy bumps called hives may pop up on your skin
fluid-filled blisters can form that may ooze and crust over
over time, the skin may thicken and feel scaly or leathery


Contact dermatitis happens when you touch a substance that irritates your skin or causes an allergic reaction. The most common causes are:

poison ivy and other poisonous plants

Dyshidrotic eczema causes small blisters to form on your hands and feet. It’s more common in women than men.


In dyshidrotic eczema:

fluid-filled blisters form on your fingers, toes, palms, and soles of your feet
these blisters may itch or hurt
the skin can scale, crack, and flake


Dyshidrotic eczema can be caused by:

damp hands and feet
exposure to substances such as nickel, cobalt, or chromium salt

Nummular eczema, also known as discoid eczema and nummular dermatitis, is a common type of eczema that can occur at any age. It looks very different than usual eczema and can be much more difficult to treat. People with nummular eczema develop coin-shaped spots on their skin, which may be very itchy. It is thought to be “triggered” by things like insect bites, reactions to skin inflammation, or dry skin in the winter.

Symptoms of nummular eczema:

Round, coin-shaped spots
Dry, scaly skin
Wet, open sores


Nummular eczema can be triggered by a reaction to an insect bite, or by an allergic reaction to metals or chemicals. Dry skin can also cause it. You’re more likely to get this form if you have another type of eczema, such as atopic dermatitis.

It produces a rash on the scalp, face, ears, and occasionally the mid-chest in adults. In infants, in can produce a weepy, oozy rash behind the ears and can be quite extensive, involving the entire body.

Common Symptoms

Greasy, swollen skin
White or yellowish crusty flakes


Doctors don’t yet know the exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis. It may be related to:

A yeast (fungus) called malassezia that is in the oil secretion on the skin
An irregular response of the immune system

Stasis dermatitis is a common inflammatory skin disease that occurs on the lower extremities. It is usually the earliest cutaneous sequela of chronic venous insufficiency with venous hypertension and may be a precursor to more problematic conditions, such as venous leg ulceration and lipodermatosclerosis.


the lower part of your legs may swell up, especially during the day when you’ve been walking
your legs may ache or feel heavy
you’ll likely also have varicose veins, which are thick, ropey damaged veins in your legs
the skin over those varicose veins will be dry and itchy
you may develop open sores on your lower legs and on the tops of your feet


Stasis dermatitis happens in people who have blood flow problems in their lower legs. If the valves that normally push blood up through your legs toward your heart malfunction, blood can pool in your legs. Your legs can swell up and varicose veins can form.

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    What Causes Eczema?

    The exact cause of eczema is unknown, but it’s thought to be linked to an overactive response by the body’s immune system to an irritant. It is this response that causes the symptoms of eczema.

    In addition, eczema is commonly found in families with a history of other allergies or asthma. Also, defects in the skin barrier could allow moisture out and germs in.

    Some people may have “flare-ups” of the itchy rash in response to certain substances or conditions. For some, coming into contact with rough or coarse materials may cause the skin to become itchy. For others, feeling too hot or too cold, exposure to certain household products like soap or detergent, or coming into contact with animal dander may cause an outbreak. Upper respiratory infections or colds may also be triggers. Stress may cause the condition to worsen.

    Although there is no cure, most people can effectively manage their disease with medical treatment and by avoiding irritants. The condition is not contagious and can’t be spread from person to person.

    Ayurvedic Treatment for Eczema

    According to Ayurveda, Eczema or Vicharchika is caused due to a faulty diet and lifestyle, which leads to impairment of digestion and aggravation of Pitta Dosha (Ayurvedic humor representing Fire). Pitta manifests in the skin and causes accumulation of heating toxins known as ama. These toxins accumulate in body tissues, contaminating them at a deep level and causing Eczema. Use of local creams, antibiotics and steroids only mask the symptoms; they do not affect the root cause of this disease and that is the reason why this problem often reappears. Ayurveda recommends an individualized Eczema treatment plan for patients, including proper diet and specialized herbal combinations. The line of treatment works on pacifying Pitta by enhancing the body’s digestion, as well as cleansing the body of accumulated toxins.

    Since eczema is a constitutional and deep-rooted disease, external medications are not effective for its treatment. Such medications can only work upon the manifestation of a problem and leave the underlying causes. Ayurvedic treatment for eczema adopts an elaborate process to purify blood to cure the root cause of the disease.


    It is an obligation therapy that makes the skin smooth. Snehana works on the doshas and loosens blocked channels. There are two types of snehana namely bahya snehana and abhyantara snehana. In Bahya. ghrita (ghee), taila (oil), vasa (muscle fat) or majja (marrow) oil is externally applied on the body. While in abhyantara, oils are internally administered .i.e consumed by the patient.


    Swedana removes srotovarodha (obstructions in channels) that are loosened by snehana. It is a fomentation therapy wherein, sweating is induced to get rid of excess toxins from the blood. This can be done by exercise, with the aid of fire or through sauna. There are two main types of swedana namely saagnisweda (done with help of fire) and anaagni sweda (done without fire).


    This process pacifies the aggravated doshas by natural herbs and appropriate diet.

    Panchkarma is a blood purification process that involves five procedures namely Vaman, Virechan, Basti, Nasya and Raktamokshan.

    Diet adjustments to cure Eczema

    • According to the Ayushveda Health and Lifestyle Portal, ayurveda also recommends restrictions on diet.
    • Dietary supplements are an important part of ayurvedic remedies.
    • Vegetables that have high content of antioxidants and vitamins are useful to cure eczema. Tomato, spinach, carrot, turmeric and spinach juice are some of the examples.
    • The vegetables that must be avoided by people with eczema include cucumber, ginger, radish and onions. Avoid eating sour foods.

    The best part of ayurvedic treatment is that you need not worry about side effects. It is for this reason that ayurvedic treatment for eczema is largely used for babies as well.