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What are the differences between atopic and allergic contact eczema?

Atopic eczema and allergic contact eczema are two common disease that affect the largest organ in the body: the skin. However, they have different causes, symptoms, and treatments.

What is atopic eczema?

  • Explanation and Causes
    Atopic eczema is a very prevalent chronic inflammatory disease, particularly in childhood, and has a major impact on the quality of life of patients and their families. In most cases, atopic eczema disappears in the first years of life, but may manifest itself in adulthood. There is an increased risk of asthma or rhinitis.
    As for the causes, atopic eczema is multifactorial, involving genetic factors (children of parents with atopic dermatitis, asthma or allergic rhinitis are more likely to have atopic terrain), changes in the immune system and changes in the skin barrier.
  • Symptoms
    Symptoms of atopic eczema include dry and rough skin, itching, red plaques and scabs, especially on the face, neck, and folds (especially in the knee and elbow folds), but also on the hands and eyelids. In more severe cases, it can affect the whole body. Heat, perspiration, and stress can aggravate symptoms.

What is allergic contact eczema?

  • Explanation and causes
    Allergic contact eczema is an inflammatory reaction of the skin caused by exposure, primary or chronic (repeated or continued) to a product or substance, such as cosmetics, perfumes, hair dyes, soaps, detergents and metal (buttons, earrings, watches), among others.
  • Symptoms
    Symptoms include redness, swelling, pruritus, blisters or blisters and are usually restricted to the site of contact, very often the hands. The skin can become thicker. This pathology affects, in particular, people with certain professional activities, such as hairdressers and cleaning aids.


How To Diagnose  Eczema

Age, location of lesions, personal and family history of allergies, as well as leisure habits and professional activity, in the case of adults, are essential factors in establishing the diagnosis. The skin test, with exposure of the skin to different allergens, allows to determine the causative substance.


How to treat

In atopic eczema , the skin should be well hydrated with emollient products, which allow restoring the protective barrier function of the skin and preventing its colonization by bacteria and consequent infection. Baths should be swift, with warm water and unscented products. Cotton clothing should be preferred. Babies may need to sleep with gloves to avoid scratching, which can lead to sores. The doctor may prescribe corticosteroids, antihistamines (for relief of itching), antibiotics (when there is infection), and immunomodulators.

In allergic contact eczema , contact with the substances causing the allergy must be avoided, replacing them with others. The doctor may also prescribe medications to relieve the symptoms.



Atopic or allergic contact dermatitis or eczema are not contagious. However, in the presence of the described symptoms, you should consult your pediatrician or dermatologist.



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