Discoid eczema, also known as nummular or discoid dermatitis, is a long-term (chronic) skin condition that causes skin to become itchy, swollen and cracked in circular or oval patches. A rash appears that looks like red coin-shaped discs, or plaques of eczema. It is extremely itchy and uncomfortable.
The plaques affect different parts of the body, but mostly the lower legs, hands, and forearms, and sometimes the trunk. The face and scalp are not affected. It is not contagious, and it cannot be caught by touching an affected person or being near them.
Without treatment, discoid eczema can last for weeks, months or even years. It may also keep coming back – often in the same area that was affected previously.
The causes are unknown, but it is more likely to affect people who have dry, sensitive skin that is easily irritated by soap, detergents, and rough clothing.
Discoid eczema appears to be more common during the winter months, when indoor humidity levels are lower.
People with discoid eczema may also have atopic eczema.
Poor blood flow may worsen symptoms on the lower legs.
It may be linked with the use of certain medications, notably interferon and isotretinoin, used to treat acne.
Patches of discoid eczema can sometimes become infected. Signs of an infection can include;
- The patches oozing a lot of fluid
- A yellow crust developing over the patches
- The skin around the patches becoming hot, swollen and tender or painful
- Feeling sick
- Feeling hot or shivery
- Feeling unwell
Discoid eczema is usually a long-term problem, but medicines are available to help relieve the symptoms and keep the condition under control.
- Emollients – moisturisers applied to the skin to stop it becoming dry
- Topical corticosteroids – ointments and creams containing a steroid that are applied to the skin and may relieve severe symptoms
- Antihistamines – medicines that can reduce itching
Additional medicine can be prescribed if the eczema is infected or particularly severe.
Occasionally, areas of the skin infected by discoid eczema can be left permanently discoloured after the condition has cleared up.
A person should see a doctor if they think they may have discoid eczema. The doctor should be able to make a diagnosis by examining the affected areas of the skin. In some cases they also ask questions or arrange some tests to rule out other conditions.
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