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Discoid Eczema

How is discoid eczema treated?

A number of treatments are available from your doctor to help treat discoid eczema, and there also some things you can do at home to make the skin more comfortable. See your GP for a diagnosis (and treatment) if you think that you may have discoid eczema, because other skin conditions such as psoriasis and ring worm can look very similar.

Emollients

People with discoid eczema often have dry skin that should be treated to improve the existing eczema and help prevent further flares. A wide range of emollients (medical moisturisers), are available and can be prescribed by your doctor or nurse. It is best to experiment to see which one suits you best, but below are some guidelines which may help you choose:

  • Dry, flaky skin is most effectively treated using a greasy preparation, i.e. an ointment,which contains a high proportion of oil.
  • If areas of skin are weeping, or ‘wet’, as patches of discoid eczema can be, a cream is more suitable.
  • Emollients are very safe and can be applied as frequently as required – every hour if necessary– to prevent your skin from feeling dry and becoming flaky.

It is possible to become sensitve to a particular ingredient in moisturising creams or ointments –  click here to go to our section on Emollients to find out more about them.

Topical Steroids

Once discoid eczema has developed, the skin can become very red, itchy and inflamed – if this happens, your doctor may prescribe a steroid, with a cream or ointment base, to apply to the affected areas to help them clear up. The potency of the steroid used will depend on the severity of the eczema. Generally, for adults with discoid eczema, a more potent steroid will be used for longer periods, e.g. 2–4 weeks depending on the area of the body. Children with discoid eczema will be prescribed topical steroids according to their age, and these may be moderate or potent. 

Only use the steroid cream or ointment on areas of skin with active eczema unless otherwise advised by your doctor or nurse. Dry skin not affected by eczema is best treated with an emollient. You can find out more about topical steroids if you click here

Treatments for infection

If your skin is infected (crusting, oozing and very inflamed), see your doctor or nurse to get a specific treatment for this. If only a few patches are infected, a cream or ointment containing a combination of antibiotic plus steroid may be prescribed. If the infection is more widespread, a skin swab may be taken and you will be given a course of antibiotic tablets or capsules to take.

Practical tips

  • Bathing can make discoid eczema more comfortable by removing crusts and reducing itchiness, but hot water can aggravate the condition so baths should be lukewarm.
  • Plain water and soap and detergents make skin even drier. So add an emollient bath oil to the water and use an emollient soap substitute for washing and showering.
  • Contact with detergents can make you more likely to develop discoid eczema, so avoid direct contact with any household cleaning agents, or wear waterproof gloves to protect your hands.
  • Dry air in centrally heated homes can make discoid eczema worse – if you place a bowl of water near each radiator, your skin is less likely to become dry.
  • In cold weather apply your emollient before going out and also at regular intervals when indoors, especially if central heating makes your home dry.

Most people find that discoid eczema eventually clears up. For severe and extensive discoid eczema other treatments may be required and a referral to dermatology should be made before these are started; for example, paste bandages, topical calcineurin inhibitors, oral steroids, azathioprine, ciclosporin, methotrexate and ultra-violet light therapy.

You will find a pdf of our factsheet on Discoid Eczema under the related documents to the right of this page.