Causes, Types and Treatment of Eczema on the Hands Face Feet and Scalp

" Eczema refers to an inflamed skin condition. Symptoms include skin itch, crusting, redness, and clear oozing. There are several possible causes ranging from an allergic reaction to something that comes in contact with the skin to allergy where the immune system over reacts to a substance  (food, plant animal, chemicals, allergen in the air such as pollen) . As the skin becomes inflamed it produces a substance which causes itch.  Itching and scratching can worsen the condition and introduce bacterial infection. The most common type in children is atopic dermatitis, which refers to an allergic reaction. Treatment involves identification of the underlying cause, removal of potential triggers such as an allergen, bath soap or laundry detergents, and the use of medications that can address inflammation or allergic response. The condition is not contagious."  

Eczema is a type of dermatitis which refers to inflamed or swollen skin. It can appear anywhere on the body and can be found on children and adults.  It is used to refer to a broad range of skin problems that are usually characterized by skin crusts, itch and pus.

eczema on legs
Eczema photo of atopic dermatitis on Child's Legs
Source: Principles of Pediatric Dermatology

Types of Eczema:

Allergic contact eczema
  • Redness
  • Skin itch
  • Contact allergies (poison ivy)
Atopic dermatitis (most common type in children and babies, more frequently seen in children after age 4)
  • dry skin
  • itch
  • rash on feet, hands, inside elbows, face, behind knees
  • Allergy
Contact eczema
  • red skin
  • itch
  • burning in one area due to substance that touches skin
  • allergen
  • cleaning products
  • chemicals
  • acids
Dyshidrotic eczema (seen in teens and adults, can be unresponsive to treatment)
  • irritation on fingers, palms and soles of the feet
  • deep blisters
  • itch
  • burn
  • unknown cause
Infantile Dermatitis (seen in 3% of infants and 25% of children age 3 to 12)
  • lesions on cheek, neck, behind the knee, arm in front of the elbow
  • red skin patches
  • crusted lesions
  • severe itch
  • inherited
  • family history of asthma or seasonal allergy (hay fever)
  • food protein allergy to oranges, cereals, egg whites, milk, food coloring, additives
  • inhalants such as wool, feathers, dander from birds, cats, dogs
  • scaly skin patches on head, lower legs, forearms, wrists
  • itch
  • insect bites
Nummular eczema (refers to coin shape of dermatitis)
  • crusted skin
  • scaling
  • coin-shaped irritated spots found on the arms, back lower legs and buttocks
  • medications (interferon, ribavirin treatment for hepatitis C)
Seborrheic eczema (cradle cap refers to seborrheic eczema in infants)
  • yellow skin appearance
  • oily skin
  • scaly skin on scalp, face, other body parts
  • hair loss
  • mild redness
  • skin plaques over large areas
  • genetic
  • stress, fatigue
  • extreme weather
  • oily skin
  • infrequent shampooing
  • infrequent skin cleaning
  • see in Parkinson's patients, or after head injury and stroke, and HIV
Stasis dermatitis
  • Irritation on lower legs
  • blood flow issue, circulatory problems

eczema on scalp
Seborrheic dermatitis (eczema on scalp) in child
Also referred to as Cradle Cap.  Treated by rinsing scalp with warm olive oil that is left on the scalp for a few minutes. Can also be treated with dandruff shampoos that contain selenium sulfide, salicyclic acid.


There are many causes of this condition.  In some cases, a cause may not be identified.

  • Allergic response to skin contact
  • Hay Fever
  • Food Allergy (dairy, eggs, nuts, coffee, tea, lemon, wheat, seafood, mango, strawberry, canned foods, preservatives, coloring)
  • Scratching
  • Fungus
  • Chemicals
  • Soap
  • Plant Toxins
  • Medications
  • Poor Blood flow
  • Stress (does not cause the condition, but contributes to a worsening of the condition)

Symptoms of Eczema include:

In children atopic dermatitis or skin inflammation is less severe. In adults, sites affected are often the same as those affected as a child. In general, adults experience localized inflammation, and lesions can be dry or oozing with pus. Sites are commonly above and on the sides of the neck, on the forehead, on the wrists, in back of the knee and elbow. Other symptoms can include an upper respiratory infection.

In general symptoms are:
  • Skin redness
  • Clear fluid or oozing from the skin
  • Itchiness in where skin inflammation occurs
  • Scaly or crusty skin
eczema on hands
Eczema on Hands

Eczema Treatment

As mentioned, there are many causes for this condition, with treatment based on identification of the trigger.  Once this trigger is diagnosed, a specific treatment plan can begin to address the problem, including avoidance of any allergens, such as changing laundry products or soaps.

If food is suspected, the eczema diet and can be changed to an elimination diet where the patient limits the diet to one protein and carb, such as chicken and rice. If patient improves on simplified diet, ingredients are added back in until problem reoccurs.  Once this happens, you can identify the problem food component.

Seborrheic eczema is treated with over the counter dandruff shampoo containing coal tar, salicylic acid, zinc or ketoconzaole, or selenium.  Lotions containing similar ingredients can be helpful when treating other areas of the body.

If the Doctor cannot identify the underlying cause, there are treatment approaches available that can help.  Basic treatment approaches include:

  • Corticosteroid cream (over the counter or prescription). Chronic cases may require an oral corticosteroid for use over a short period of time.
  • Injection antibiotics for infection
  • Antihistamines for allergic skin reactions
During and after recovery, a natural homeopathic skin cream such as ClearSkin-E may be of some benefit for supporting natural skin immunity and to support skin health.

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