Symptoms and causes

Dr Van Autryve performs a scratch test.

What is it?

Eczema is common and looks like patches of skin with redness, scaling, crusts, blisters and bumps (papules). It itches and gives a feeling of tightness.

There are several causes and forms of eczema:

Dyshidrotic eczema

What is it?

Drying out of the skin can cause eczema. We see dyshidrotic eczema frequently and at all ages, but especially in the elderly. The skin is dry and tight and begins to crack. It often starts on the shins.

How to treat it

Eczema ointments can be prescribed as a treatment, but tackling the cause is essential. Neutral nourishing creams should be applied daily, the number of times a person washes him or (herself should be limited and foaming soaps should not be used. It is advisable to use very greasy soaps or oils for washing. You can get light eczema ointments in the pharmacy without a prescription.

Atopic eczema

What is it?

Atopic eczema usually develops during childhood, but can start at any age.

Atopy is a hereditary trait in which children are 'naturally' born with a dry skin. They are genetically predestined to develop eczema. This occurs often within families. The real cause is a bad 'cement' in the skin. The skin layers are made up of cells that are 'fused' together. In atopy, the cement is of poor quality and the skin has a poor barrier: it is dry, chapped and easily becomes spontaneously irritated.

This predisposition is also associated with a tendency to react to pollen, house dust mites, cat hair, etcetera... and, at a young age, to food. People with atopy can also develop hay fever and asthma.


Atopic eczema affects the entire body, especially the cheeks, scalp and on the outside of the arms and legs. Later, you will see it mainly in the folds of the arms and legs and the wrists. Even in adulthood, it can still be extensive, in the folds and on the eyelids.


Eczema ointments can be prescribed as a treatment, but tackling the cause is essential: to compensate for bad 'cement', grease must be applied. You do this by smearing a lot of nourishing creams.

Seborrheic eczema or greasy eczema

What is it?

With seborrheic eczema or cradle cap you have redness and yellow-white flakes in the hair, but also around and in the ears, at the hairline, in the folds next to the nose and/or between the eyebrows. This often occurs again and sometimes especially in case of stress. Because of the flakes it feels dry and many people start applying greasy creams on it, yet we call it greasy eczema.

How often does it happen?

Seborrhagic eczema or greasy eczema affects a quarter of men, but it is also seen in many women.


The cause is skin that produces a lot of sebum, either on the scalp or on the face. The sebum remains especially in the folds of the face. Yeasts overgrow and irritate the skin.


As a treatment, we recommend avoiding oily creams; light eczema ointments are often sufficient to get rid of it, but it can recur.

Allergic contact eczema

What is it?

In allergic contact eczema, your body has acquired a reaction for something your skin comes into contact with. It can be e.g. nickel in your watch, a perfume substance in your shower gel, a preservative in your day cream... This is never congenital, but acquired through the use of products.

You can recognise it by an eczema that does not respond to treatment, keeps returning to the same areas or has blisters.


It can be tested with patch tests or epicutaneous tests.

Tips while waiting for a consultation

There is a waiting time for a consultation. Do you want to be assisted right away? Then please go to your GP, who is in the best position to assess the seriousness of the situation or can often help you, whether or not you are waiting for a consultation.

If the GP calls us, an urgent appointment can be made.

Are you afraid that your spots can no longer be seen at your appointment? Feel free to take photos and bring them along for consultation.

Treatment centres and specialisations


Latest publication date: 21/01/2021
Supervising author: Dr Van Autryve Els