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Discoid eczema is a chronic condition that causes itchy, red patches to form on the skin. In different fields, discoid eczema is sometimes called nummular or discoid dermatitis. Symptoms of this condition can persist for weeks to months without treatment. It is also extremely common for the condition to recur, often affecting the same area.

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Symptoms

As the condition’s name implies, discoid eczema’s characteristic symptom is the development of disk or coin-shaped patches or plaques. When the condition first appears, the disks are usually small and dull red. They can vary in texture, with some people developing slightly bumpy patches with fuzzy edges. Others may have oozing papules or blisters. The lesions are usually extremely itchy, and the skin between patches is often dry and irritable.

woman scratching her inner forearm, in nature
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Location of Lesions

Discoid eczema usually develops on the lower legs, torso, and forearms. In some cases, the patches may form on the fingers and hands. People with discoid eczema often notice that when a patch heals on one side of their body, it appears in the same location on the other side. After this, plaques may form in completely new locations.

woman scratching a mark on her lower leg
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Causes

Researchers are still attempting to uncover what causes discoid eczema. People with other skin conditions, such as atopic or flexural eczema, are more likely to also have discoid eczema. This is also true of people who describe their skin as “sensitive.” Emotional stress can play a role in discoid eczema development but is probably not the main cause.

diagnosis medical chart concept for discoid eczema
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Precipitating Symptoms and Triggers

While studying and monitoring discoid eczema, experts noticed that certain circumstances tended to appear just before an outbreak:

  • Superficial infections: usually impetigo skin infections or minor wound infections
  • Contact dermatitis: skin reactions due to direct contact with a triggering agent
  • Varicose veins: engorged veins, often green, blue, or purple
  • Localized injuries: insect bites, scratches, or burns
  • Dry skin
cropped image of varicose veins on woman's calf
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Who Discoid Eczema Affects

Discoid eczema affects males and females equally. While it may appear at any age, it most commonly develops in adults in their thirties. Overall, discoid eczema is most prevalent in older adult males and younger adult females. Studies show an association between alcohol use disorder and discoid eczema in males.

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Infections

The primary complication of discoid eczema is infection. As the patches of skin start to itch, the chances of infection rise dramatically, especially if there are weeping blisters or pustules. If a plaque is particularly moist or has a yellow crust, it is likely infected. The infection may also ause other symptoms, such as feeling sick or unusually warm. Some people start shivering.

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When to Visit a Doctor

The risks of recurrence and infection make it necessary to visit a doctor if a person suspects they have discoid eczema. Medical professionals are usually able to make a diagnosis by examining the skin. However, they may also order some imaging or skin tests to rule out other conditions. If a general practitioner is not sure of the diagnosis, they may refer their patient to a dermatologist.

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Treatment

People with discoid eczema will likely continue to have symptoms for most of their lives, though treatments can help keep the condition under control. Some common treatment options include:

  • Emollients: moisturizers to prevent skin dryness
  • Topical corticosteroids: ointments containing steroids
  • Antihistamines: medications that help with itching

Antibiotics may be necessary to treat resulting infections. Some people also respond well to alternative therapies, such as ultraviolet radiation treatment.

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Home Remedies

A person can often manage their discoid eczema with some simple remedies. Using common moisturizers that lack irritating agents can prevent skin dryness without triggering an outbreak. Once the lesions appear, bathing in lukewarm water can remove crusts and reduce itchiness. Some people find that mixing moisturizing bath oils into the water helps with symptoms.

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Outcomes

Discoid eczema is an incurable condition, though it is both preventable and manageable. People who have the condition are likely able to lead typical lives without much issue. Regular use of moisturizers and avoiding triggers can help prevent flare-ups. Those with particularly severe symptoms may need more extensive treatments and regular visits to a dermatologist.

dermatologist examining patient's forearm

Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.