What is discoid eczema?

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Discoid eczema is a chronic skin condition where the skin becomes reddened, itchy, cracked and swollen in oval or round patches. This skin condition can last for weeks, months or even years if not treated. In addition, it keeps recurring, usually in the same site that was previously affected.



The skin condition causes characteristic oval or round patches. They can form in any part of the body, but do not arise on the scalp or face.

The initial sign of discoid eczema is a clump of small-sized, red bumps or spots on the skin. These rapidly form together as a big red, pink or brown patch that range from a few millimeters to several centimeters in diameter.

The initial sign of discoid eczema is a clump of small-sized, red bumps or spots on the skin.

Primarily, these patches are often blistered, swollen and drain fluid. Generally, they are also itchy, especially at night time. Over time, these patches can become crusty, dry, flaky and cracked. The middle of the patch might clear up, leaving a ring of discolored skin.

What are the causes?

The precise cause of discoid eczema is unknown, but it can arise due to dry skin.

If an individual has dry skin, there is no effective barrier against substances that it is exposed to. This simply means that a previously harmless substance such as soap can irritate the skin.

Some individuals with discoid eczema might also have a history of atopic eczema which often arises among individuals susceptible to hay fever and asthma. The difference with discoid eczema is that it does not run in families.

Management of discoid eczema

Discoid eczema is generally a long-term skin problem, but medications are available to alleviate the symptoms and keep it under control.

The commonly used treatment options include:

  • Emollients – these are applied on the skin to prevent dryness
  • Topical corticosteroids – creams and ointments are applied to the skin to relieve the symptoms
  • Antihistamines – these medications work to minimize the itchiness and allow the individual to sleep better

The individual should also avoid exposure to irritating chemicals in detergents, soaps, bubble baths and shower gels.

Other medications might be given if the eczema becomes infected or quite severe. In some cases, parts of the skin affected by discoid eczema are left permanently discolored once the condition has settled.

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