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Eczema symptoms

Lesley Dobson / 06 November 2014

Eczema, also known as dermatitis, comes in different forms, with varying symptoms ranging from reddened, dry patches to skin to dampness, weeping and even bleeding.

Lady washing hands with soap
Reactions to products such as soap, hair products, detergents can irritate contact dernatitis

Atopic eczema

Itchy skin

Itchy skin is the main symptom of atopic eczema. This itching can reach the point where it affects your life, interfering with your sleep, and resulting in stress and depression. 

People with atopic eczema are likely to have a history of asthma and/or hay fever in their family. Atopic eczema is common in children. Often eczema disappears by the age of 16, but it may simply carry on or reappear in adulthood.

Dry, red skin and blisters

Other symptoms, along with the itching, are dry, red skin that may blister and ooze. Atopic eczema is most common on the inner side of elbow joints and the backs of the knees, and round your neck and your wrists. It can, however, appear anywhere on your skin. You may also have scratches and even bleeding, as a result of scratching. 

Dampness and weeping

There are other symptoms you may have during a ‘flare up’, when your eczema becomes noticeably worse. These include the itchy areas of your skin turning damp and weepy, and water blisters on your hands and feet. 

If you scratch the itchy areas of your skin again and again, the skin there may become thicker and itch even more. 

Find out more about flare-ups

Contact Eczema

This type of eczema is usually known as contact dermatitis. There are two forms, irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis.

Irritant contact dermatitis happens when your skin is irritated by and reacts to items that you often touch or make contact with throughout the day. These can include soap, hair products, detergents and even cold wind.

Dry skin that looks like a burn

The symptoms of irritant contact dermatitis can include slightly dry and red skin to areas that resemble burns. These can be quite painful, and may have ulcers.

Dry, split and red skin on hands

Allergic contact dermatitis usually affects your hands. Typical symptoms include dry, split, red skin, that may be cracked and weeping, and is extremely itchy. 

According to the National Eczema Society, contact dermatitis affects about 9% of the UK population.

Discoid eczema

Discoid eczema appears as circular or oval patches, while seborrhoeic eczema produces scaly, red patches on the eyebrow, ears, sides of the nose and scalp.

Find out more about eczema causes and triggers and how to treat eczema.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.