A severe case of discoid dermatitis, also known as discoid eczema or nummular dermatitis, can be very painful, but is it as infectious as it looks?
What is discoid eczema?
Discoid eczema is a type of eczema that develops in a circular or oval pattern. It might start off as a small patch of tiny bumps, fluid-filled blisters or spots, and develop into a ring of itchy, inflamed skin. A discoid eczema lesion can be up to 3cm across, with an outer edge of crusty, often weeping skin.
Because of this characteristic crusty appearance, with skin oozing and often very sore, it’s easy to think that discoid eczema is infectious, but it is not contagious and cannot be passed from person to person.
However, there are similar skin conditions which are infectious and look superficially similar to discoid eczema. The main two conditions it resembles are:
Impetigo: a common, usually mild, bacterial infection that can have similar crusty lesions and inflamed skin, but doesn’t develop in rings or discs.
Ringworm: a fungal infection (tinea corporis) that has a similar ring-shape which grows outwards; ringworm is also itchy, inflamed and raised, but tends not to have as many symptoms or be as itchy.
Other non-infectious skin conditions can resemble discoid eczema as well, including contact dermatitis, psoriasis (which can form in rings), and stasis eczema, which, just to confuse things further, it can co-exist with.
To further complicate matters, discoid eczema can get infected with bacteria such as staphylococcus, which will need treating with antibiotics. However, an infected patch of discoid eczema is still very unlikely to be passed on to anyone else, as the bacteria, which is commonly found on skin, can only take hold in the eczema because of the broken skin barrier.
If you’re in any doubt about whether your eczema is infected, or whether you’re suffering from eczema or a contagious condition, consult your doctor, so that you can get appropriate treatment! Discoid eczema has different causes, symptoms and needs different management to fungal or bacterial infections.
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