Derm DMs: What Are These Round Eczema Patches on My Legs?

January 03, 2022
Alanna Martine Kilkeary
By: Alanna Martine Kilkeary | by L'Oréal
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Eczema that appears during childhood often appears in irregular-looking shapes and patches on the joints of the body — like behind the knees or in the crook of the elbow. When the skin condition begins in adulthood, however, it can be more symmetrical, with coin-shaped lesions popping up on the legs, hands or arms. This type of eczema is known as nummular or discoid eczema. To learn more about this type of eczema we chatted with Dr. Orit Markowitz, NYC-based board-certified dermatologist and consultant. Ahead she explains more about what it is and how to address it.

What Is Nummular or Discoid Eczema?

These circular, scaly eczema patches typically appear on older adults instead of kids, and it affects areas with low blood circulation, like the lower legs, says Dr. Markowitz. Other than its shape and location, this type of eczema has all the hallmark characteristics of regular eczema: rough, scaly, bumpy skin that’s painfully itchy.

How Is It Different Than Other Types of Eczema?

Because of its unique round shape, nummular/discoid eczema is often misdiagnosed, says Dr. Markowitz. It can look a lot like ringworm and other infections or fungus, so it can be confused for other conditions. “If it’s straight nummular eczema, it will occur in areas where you have compromised skin, and it’s related to underlying, untreated dry skin,” she says. “It pops up with long-term dryness that older individuals develop if they don’t properly moisturize.

How to Address Nummular or Discoid Eczema

The good thing is that nummular or discoid eczema is easier to address than long-term, allergic eczema (which may require both a dermatologist and an allergist). Dr. Markowitz encourages patients to first visit their dermatologist to confirm that they actually have nummular eczema. Once there, your derm will likely prescribe a topical or prescription steroid, depending on the severity.

“If you manage the skin really well and combat that dryness at home, however, you can [usually] get it under control by using products that help seal in moisture,” she says. Stick to mild, non-fragrant soaps and always follow up with a really thick moisturizer. We recommend the CeraVe Itch Relief Moisturizing Cream which is steroid-free, non-comedogenic and approved by the National Eczema Association.

cerave itch relief moisturizing cream

Dr. Markowitz also recommends getting a humidifier in your home, which can help hydrate your skin. “All of these little tricks may help manage nummular eczema, so you might not need to go the prescription route, but you’ll need to keep up with all those remedies to prevent it from returning,” she says. Also, remember to consult with your dermatologist for the best treatment route.

Visual Designer: Hannah Packer

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