Eczema is a very common skin condition that affects over 31 million Americans, according to the National Eczema Association. Some people have eczema that causes red bumps and lumps called papules to form on their skin. This is called papular eczema or papular dermatitis.
If you have papular eczema, it can leave your skin feeling itchy and lead to skin infections. A dermatologist can diagnose papular eczema and help you develop a treatment plan.
Read on for more information about this type of eczema.
Eczema refers to a group of inflammatory skin conditions that cause itching and irritation. Eczema is caused by an immune response in your body. There are several types of eczema.
When your eczema causes small itchy bumps and lumps, known as papules, to form on your skin, it’s described as papular eczema. Atopic dermatitis can be papular.
The primary symptom of papular eczema is a skin rash made of small lumps and bumps that resemble acne. The rash can appear anywhere on your body but is most likely to appear on your stomach, arms, and legs. Other symptoms include:
- dry skin
- cracked skin
- skin that is prone to infections
Symptoms in children
Symptoms in infants are slightly different from the symptoms found in children and adults. The rash most often starts on the cheeks or scalp in infants, but it can also develop on arms and legs. Papules on infant skin can sometimes ooze fluid. Other symptoms seen in infants include:
- dry skin
- trouble sleeping
- showing signs of discomfort such as frequent crying
- rubbing against bedding and carpet when crawling to scratch itch
- skin that is prone to infections
Diaper rash or eczema?
Infants rarely develop papular eczema under their diapers. A rash with raised bumps in this area is much more likely to be a diaper rash than papular eczema. A pediatrician or dermatologist can help you determine the cause of the rash and prescribe treatment.
People with darker skin also tend to develop follicular accentuation along with papular eczema more often compared with lighter-skinned individuals.
Follicular accentuation is a condition that causes inflammation in your hair follicles. It can lead to additional symptoms such as:
- a rash that resembles goosebumps
- hairs that stand up on end
- redness and swelling around the rash
- skin that is warm to the touch
Research points to a combination of factors — including eczema’s epidemiology and pathology as well as access to treatment — contributing to the higher prevalence and outcome of these conditions in people of color.
A dermatologist can diagnose papular eczema. Generally, this is done by examining your skin and asking a series of questions. You’ll likely be asked:
- what symptoms you have
- when your symptoms began
- where on your body rashes appear
- if you have any relatives with any kind of eczema
Often, a skin exam and answers to these questions will be enough to diagnose papular eczema. Your dermatologist will do a skin biopsy if more information is needed to make a diagnosis.
A skin biopsy is done by numbing a small area of your skin and removing a tiny amount. This is generally done in the office during your appointment. The skin sample will be sent to a lab. It can help your dermatologist diagnose papular eczema and find the most appropriate treatment.
There is no cure for papular eczema, but the condition can be managed. Your treatment will focus on reducing your symptoms and preventing infections. The exact treatment route for you will depend on the severity of your eczema.
However, some important eczema management techniques are used in all cases of eczema, including infant and childhood eczema. These techniques include:
- keeping skin clean
- limiting baths and showers to 10 minutes and using lukewarm water
- keeping skin well moisturized
- using fragrance-free and dye-free skin products
- avoiding triggers such as smoke, pet dander, and pollen
- frequent moisturization with a bland emollient
Treatments can also help manage papular eczema. People with mild cases of papular eczema might be recommended over-the-counter creams to reduce itching. Prescription creams are also an option and include:
- steroid creams
- skin barrier creams
- creams that suppress your immune response such as PDE4 inhibitors or topical calcineurin inhibitors
Children and infants might also be prescribed steroid creams or skin barrier creams. Treatment creams prescribed to children and infants will be milder than creams prescribed to adults. It’s important to only use prescription creams that have been ordered for your child and to use them as directed.
Oral antihistamines are often prescribed to help manage itching during an outbreak.
Severe eczema is sometimes treated with phototherapy. This treatment uses ultraviolet B light to decrease inflammatory cells in the skin and decrease itching and inflammation.
Injection of medications called biologics can also be used to reduce inflammation in severe papular eczema.
Papular eczema is an autoinflammatory condition. It’s the result of your immune system attacking healthy parts of your body. Researchers aren’t sure why this autoinflammatory response happens in some people.
Problems with a gene that creates a skin barrier protein called filaggrin might lead to papular eczema, but more research still needs to be done.
Exposure to triggers often causes papular eczema outbreaks. These triggers are different for everyone. Common triggers include:
- dry air
- laundry detergent
There are few risk factors that make it more likely someone will develop papular eczema. These factors don’t mean you’ll definitely get papular eczema, but they do increase your risk. These include:
- having a family member with any type of eczema
- having any type of eczema
- having asthma or hay fever
- having a family member with asthma or hay fever
- being a person of color
There’s currently no cure for papular eczema, but it can be managed with the right treatments. Avoiding triggers, keeping your skin clean, and keeping your skin moisturized can help avoid outbreaks.
Prescription creams can help calm an outbreak and reduce itching and inflammation. A dermatologist can work with you to develop a treatment plan that works best for you.
Papular eczema is a type of eczema that causes red bumps that look similar to acne to appear on your skin. It can be found in adults, children, and infants.
People of any age and ethnicity can develop papular eczema, but it occurs more frequently in people of color. It can also cause inflammation of your hair follicles called follicular accentuation.
There’s currently no cure for papular eczema, but treatments can help you manage the condition and outbreaks.