Eczema or Dermatitis are general terms used the describe a group of inflammed skin conditions that causes chronic, itchy rashes.  About 15 million people in the US suffer from some form of eczema.  While there is no known cause for dermatitis, it appears to involve an overactive immune system in the presence of certain materials or allergens.

Common symptoms include:

  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Flaky, scaly skin
  • Dryness

 Types of eczema include: allergic, contact, irritant, nummular eczema, and many others.

Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is a common, chronic skin allergic disease that starts in childhoood.  It is believed to have a hereditary component and often runs in families with asthma and hay fever.   Patients with atopic dermatitis complain of redness, itching, swelling, scaling and even cracking and weeping on affected areas.   The most common locations are the head and scalp, neck, inside of the elbows, behind the knees, and buttocks.  While atopic dermatitis often starts in childhood, most kids get better as they get older.  It is not uncommon to experience periods of flare-ups followed by periods of improvement.  Many things can aggravate this condition, including allergies, dry weather, cold temperature, harsh soaps, and skin products.

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis refers to skin rashes resulting from contact with certain substances.  There are two types of contact dermatitis: allergic (resulting from a reaction to some allergen, such as poison ivy or nickel), and irritant (resulting from direct irritation to a substance, such as detergents and bleach).  Some chemicals can act as both allergen and irritant (wet cement, for example).  Other substances cause a problem after sunlight exposure, bringing on a phototoxic dermatitis.  About three quarters of cases of contact eczema are of the irritant type, which is the most common occupational skin disease.  Contact dermatitis is curable, provided the offending substance can be avoided.  If Dr. Popkin suspects a contact dermatitis, she may recommend patch testing to determine the specific substance that may be causing your rash.

Xerotic Eczema

Also called Asteatotic dermatitis, xerosis or winter itch, this is dry skin that commonly worsen in the dry winter weather and becomes so inflammed that it turns into eczema.  This is more common as we age as our skin produces less oil.  The itchy skin resembles a dry, cracked, river bed.  Frequent moisturizing, avoidance of hot showers and eliminating irritating products are the key to reducing xerotic eczema.


Dyshidrosis (hand dermatitis, pompholyx) is eczema on the palms, soles, and sides of fingers and toes.  Most patients notice fine pearly like blisters called vesicles along the sides of the digits, thickening of the palms, and cracks at the tips of the fingers.  This often worsens with frequent hand washing and warm weather.

Stasis Dermatitis

Stasis dermatitis occurs on the legs of patients with varicose veins and poor vein circulation.  This is particularly common around the ankles and shins of patients over 50.  There is redness, scaling, itching and darkening of the skin.   Longstanding varicose veins and stasis dermatitis can progress to leg ulcer so it is important to consider early treatment.  Click here to find out more about vein disorder and vein treatment.