What is discoid eczema?
Discoid, or nummular, eczema is a chronic inflammatory skin condition; it’s a type of atopic dermatitis or eczema, characterised by its distinctive ring-shaped patches. Although it’s not clear exactly why it happens, various factors that might trigger or exacerbate a flare-up of discoid eczema have been identified. These include things as disparate as dry weather conditions, irritants in household cleaning products or toiletries, stress, chemicals, medications and poor circulation in the lower legs. The patches of eczema can be dry, itchy and sore, sometimes distressingly so. The skin can weep,ooze or crust over, and is vulnerable to getting infected.
What does discoid eczema look like?
This type of eczema is distinguished from other kinds of skin condition by the shape and appearance of its circular lesions. These patches of skin start quite tiny; they can be made up of bumps, spots or blisters, which increase in circumference and size, and spread outwards from this initial raised area. Eventually reaching up to 2-3cm, the patches tend to be most itchy and inflamed on their outer edge, and can leave an area of clear skin in the middle of the ring as they expand.
Who gets discoid eczema?
The quick answer is that anyone can get discoid eczema - but not everyone does! It tends to occur in adults, not children. (Itchy circular lesions on children are more likely to be caused by ringworm, which is a fungal infection rather than eczema.) It’s more common in men than in women; men might develop a first patch of discoid eczema after the age of 55, while women with discoid eczema are more likely to be between 15-25 years old.
It is a reasonably common kind of eczema, with about 2 in 1000 people suffering from the condition.
How to manage discoid eczema
As with any kind of eczema, the key to managing discoid eczema involves three steps:
- Identifying and avoiding your triggers
- Soothing inflammation/itchiness
- Applying emollients
It is often possible to manage a flare of discoid eczema at home and without prescribed medication (see our article How Do You Treat Discoid Eczema Naturally? for more information), but if the problem doesn’t improve or worsens, or if you’re worried about infection, then consult a doctor or pharmacist.
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If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.
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