Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, can irritate skin all over the body. It is almost always itchy and often leaves the skin feeling dry, rough, flaky and extremely uncomfortable.

Q: Is there a difference between dermatitis and eczema?

A: The word “eczema” has a few meanings. It is a general term that means a family of skin conditions that causes the skin to become inflamed, swollen, irritated and itchy. Dermatitis is any irritation or inflammation of the skin.

Q: What are the symptoms of eczema?

A: While eczema can look different from person to person, everyone shares one common symptom. The skin usually itches.

Q: Are there different types of dermatitis and eczema?

A: There are many types of eczema, depending on the location of the condition. Here’s a brief description:

• Hand eczema might first appear as dry chapped hands, and later develop into patches of red, scaly, itchy and inflamed skin, or even blisters.

• Contact dermatitis often looks like eczema. Occurs from contact with chemicals or plants. It might be an immediate direct irritant or a delayed allergic rash.

• Dyshidrotic dermatitis occurs only on the palms of the hands, sides of the fingers, and soles of the feet. This common eczema typically causes a burning or itching sensation and a blistering rash.

• Neurodermatitis occurs when nerve endings in the skin become irritated, triggering a severe itch-scratch-itch cycle. Common causes of nerve irritation include insect bites and emotional stress.

• Nummular dermatitis is a common eczema, the hallmark of which is unique, coin-shaped or oval lesions. It often does not itch.

• Occupational dermatitis is not one specific type of eczema, but rather any type of eczema caused by things in a person’s workplace.

• Seborrheic dermatitis is not eczema. Occuring on the scalp as oily, waxy patches, this common type of rash sometimes spreads to the face and beyond. Dandruff and “cradle cap” fall under this classification.

• Stasis dermatitis is not eczema either. It occurs in the lower legs and is common in the elderly, especially when circulation becomes sluggish. Poor blood flow may cause fluids to build up, and the legs swell. Over time, this build-up of fluids affects the skin, causing a rash that sometimes itches, and may have painful sores and discolored skin.

Q: Is eczema curable?

A: No, but it can be treated. A dermatologist can prescribe treatment and recommend skin care practices.

Remember, any abnormality of the skin should be looked at by a dermatologist.

Dr. Oswald Lightsey Mikell, certified by the American Board of Dermatology and the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, is the owner of Dermatology Associates of the Lowcountry.