Discoid eczema

Discoid eczema, also known as nummular or discoid dermatitis, is a long-term skin condition. It causes skin to become itchy, reddened, swollen and cracked in circular or oval patches. See your pharmacist or GP if you think you may have discoid eczema so they can recommend a suitable treatment.

Symptoms of discoid eczema

Below are symptoms of discoid eczema, these include:

  • circular or oval patches of eczema - they can affect any part of the body, although they don't usually affect the face or scalp (these start as a group of small red spots or bumps on the skin which join up to form larger pink, red or brown patches that can range from a few millimetres to several centimetres in size)
  • blistering - initially, these patches of eczema are often swollen, blistered (covered with small fluid-filled pockets) and ooze fluid
  • itchiness and pain – the patches also tend to be very itchy, particularly at night
  • dry, crusty, cracked and flaky skin patches - over time, the patches may become dry, crusty, cracked and flaky (the centre of the patch also sometimes clears, leaving a ring of discoloured skin that can be mistaken for ringworm)

Close up picture of a patch of discoid eczema
Discoid eczema causes circular or oval patches of eczema on the skin

You may just have one patch of discoid eczema, but most people get several patches- the skin between the patches is often dry.

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 red, hot, swollen, and tender or painful
  • feeling sick
  • chills
  • feeling unwell

When to get medical advice

See your pharmacist or GP if you think you may have discoid eczema so they can recommend a suitable treatment.

You should also seek medical advice if you think your skin may be infected. You may need treatment.

Your GP should be able to make a diagnosis just by examining the affected areas of skin. In some cases they may also ask questions or arrange some tests to rule out other conditions.

Your GP may refer you to a dermatologist (a doctor who specialises in managing skin conditions) if they're unsure of the diagnosis or if you need patch testing.

Causes of discoid eczema

The cause of discoid eczema is unknown, although it may occur as a result of having particularly dry skin.

Dry skin means your skin can't provide an effective barrier against substances that come into contact with it. This could allow a previously harmless substance, such as soap, to irritate (damage) your skin.

It's important to look carefully at all the chemicals in cosmetics and toiletries that may have come into contact with your skin. Contact dermatitis, a type of eczema caused by coming into contact with a particular irritant, may have a role in discoid eczema.

Some people with discoid eczema also have a history of atopic eczema, which often occurs in people who are prone to asthma and hay fever. However, unlike atopic eczema, discoid eczema doesn't seem to run in families.

Other possible triggers

An outbreak of discoid eczema may sometimes be triggered by a minor skin injury, such as an insect bite or a burn.

Some medicines may also be associated with discoid eczema, as patches of eczema can appear in people taking:

  • interferon and ribavirin – when they're used together to treat hepatitis C 
  • tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) blockers – used to treat some types of arthritis
  • statins (cholesterol-lowering medication) – which can cause dry skin and rashes

Dry environments and cold climates can make discoid eczema worse, and sunny or humid (damp) environments may make your symptoms better.

Treating discoid eczema

Discoid eczema is usually a long-term problem. But medications are available to help relieve the symptoms and keep the condition under control.

Without treatment, discoid eczema can last for weeks, months or even years. It may also keep recurring – often in the same area that was affected previously.

Treatments used include:

  • emollients – moisturisers applied to the skin to stop it becoming dry
  • topical corticosteroids – ointments and creams applied to the skin that can help relieve severe symptoms
  • antihistamines – medications that can reduce itching and help you sleep better

There are also things you can do yourself to help, such as avoiding all the irritating chemicals in soaps, detergents, bubble baths and shower gels.

Additional medication can be prescribed if your eczema is infected or particularly severe.

Occasionally, areas of skin affected by discoid eczema can be left permanently discoloured after the condition has cleared up.

Other types of eczema

Eczema is the name for a group of skin conditions that cause dry, irritated skin. Other types of eczema include:

  • atopic eczema (also called atopic dermatitis) – the most common type of eczema, it often runs in families and is linked to other conditions such as asthma and hay fever
  • contact dermatitis – a type of eczema that occurs when the body comes into contact with a particular substance
  • varicose eczema – a type of eczema that most often affects the lower legs and is caused by problems with the flow of blood through the leg veins

 

The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.

For further information see terms and conditions.

Health conditions A to Z

Search by health condition or symptoms

Or find conditions beginning with …

Share this page

What do you want to do?
What is your question about?
Do you want a reply?
Your email address
To reply to you, we need your email address
Your feedback

We will not reply to your feedback.  Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

This feedback form is for issues with the nidirect website only.

You can use it to report a problem or suggest an improvement to a webpage.

If you have a question about a government service or policy, you should contact the relevant government organisation directly as we don’t have access to information about you held by government departments.

You must be aged 13 years or older - if you’re younger, ask someone with parental responsibility to send the feedback for you.

The nidirect privacy notice applies to any information you send on this feedback form.

Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.
Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.

What to do next

Comments or queries about angling can be emailed to anglingcorrespondence@daera-ni.gov.uk 

What to do next

If you have a comment or query about benefits, you will need to contact the government department or agency which handles that benefit.  Contacts for common benefits are listed below.

Carer's Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912
Email 
dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Discretionary support / Short-term benefit advance

Call 0800 587 2750 
Email 
customerservice.unit@communities-ni.gov.uk

Disability Living Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912 
Email dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Employment and Support Allowance

Call 0800 587 1377

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Contact your local Jobs & Benefits office

Personal Independence Payment

Call 0800 587 0932

If your query is about another benefit, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

Comments or queries about the Blue Badge scheme can be emailed to bluebadges@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk or you can also call 0300 200 7818.

What to do next

For queries or advice about careers, contact the Careers Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Child Maintenance, contact the Child Maintenance Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about claiming compensation due to a road problem, contact DFI Roads claim unit.

What to do next

For queries or advice about criminal record checks, email ani@accessni.gov.uk

What to do next

Application and payment queries can be emailed to ema_ni@slc.co.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about employment rights, contact the Labour Relations Agency.

What to do next

For queries or advice about birth, death, marriage and civil partnership certificates and research, contact the General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI) by email gro_nisra@finance-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries about:

If your query is about another topic, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

For queries or advice about passports, contact HM Passport Office.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs), including parking tickets and bus lane PCNs, email dcu@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about pensions, contact the Northern Ireland Pension Centre.

What to do next

If you wish to report a problem with a road or street you can do so online in this section.

If you wish to check on a problem or fault you have already reported, contact DfI Roads.

What to do next

For queries or advice about historical, social or cultural records relating to Northern Ireland, use the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) enquiry service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about rates, email LPSCustomerTeam@lpsni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about  60+ and Senior Citizen SmartPasses (which can be used to get concessionary travel on public transport), contact Smartpass - Translink.