What is discoid eczema?
Discoid eczema is a particular kind of eczema, which appears on skin in characteristic circular shapes, hence the name. It’s also known as ‘nummular eczema’, again because of its shape, from the Latin word for a coin.
It’s similar to other kinds of eczema, in that a flare is triggered or exacerbated by various factors, including irritants, medications, injury to the skin, and environmental factors. It’s a chronic, inflammatory skin condition, which has to be managed rather than cured. Flares can go on for weeks or months if not treated, and tend to recur from time to time in the same place.
What does discoid eczema look like?
The condition’s oval or disc-shaped lesions can occur anywhere on the body, but tend to appear on hands, arms and lower legs. They can vary in size, but start off as small bumpy, spotty or blistered raised areas which then spread outwards. It’s this leading edge that tends to be most problematic; for many sufferers the edge is itchy, inflamed, and painful, with some people experiencing burning or stinging sensations. The eczema can weep, ooze or crust over. Sometimes the condition can be exacerbated by infection with a bacteria, such as staphylococcus.
The eczema lesions are usually differently coloured from the surrounding skin - darker brown, silver, purple, red or pink - and can leave long term damage or even scars.
How to manage discoid eczema naturally
As with many other types of chronic inflammatory skin conditions, getting on top of a flare of discoid eczema involves deploying several different strategies at once, most of which can be part of your daily skincare regime. You can manage your eczema at home, by avoiding triggers, soothing the inflammation, and keeping your skin hydrated with intensive emollients.
Here are some strategies for managing your discoid eczema naturally:
Discoid eczema can be triggered or exacerbated by irritating ingredients in your skincare, shampoo, environment or household cleaning products. Check ingredients lists, and swap synthetic products for natural ones, particularly avoiding toiletries or moisturisers containing SLS/sulphates, soap, perfumes or harsh preservatives.
Manage your stress and limit your itching
Stress is a significant factor in discoid eczema, so anything you can do to manage your stress levels will be helpful. What works for you is likely to be different to what works for others, so find your own path here. You may prefer yoga to running, listening to music over reading a book, or turn to knitting as a good distraction from itching, rather than cooking, gardening or warm baths, but whatever remember to take yourself and your needs seriously.
Soak and seal
Having a warm bath can be useful to those with itchy, dry discoid eczema. Make the water warm, not too hot or too cold, and try not to linger longer than twenty minutes, as prolonged contact with water can have the reverse effect, drying it out rather than hydrating it. Add oats, mineral salts or natural oil to the water as you like, but don’t use soaps, bubble baths or perfumed bath products (including undiluted essential oils which can be very irritating to sensitive skin). As soon as you’re out of the bath, pat your skin dry with a clean soft towel, and then moisturise immediately with a natural emollient salve or oil.
Feed your skin
Your skin needs certain nutrients to complete its cycle of repair and regeneration; if you want to manage your eczema naturally, then consider investing in products that contain nourishing ingredients. Look out for omega-rich hemp seed, borage, sea buckthorn, shea butter or olive oil. Many plant-based ingredients also include vitamins, antioxidants and minerals that can help your skin stay in good, resilient condition.
Some plant-based ingredients have naturally anti-inflammatory properties, which can help with wound healing, calming itchiness, and reducing inflammation. Look out for products containing calendula, chamomile and safflower oils.
If your eczema is prone to getting infected, try protecting it with some plant-based antimicrobial action! Tea tree is a potent antibacterial and antifungal, and can be dabbed on troublesome patches (diluted to 5%, or in a blend of other oils such as Balmonds Scalp Oil). Other antimicrobials include beeswax and olive oil.
Different emollients have different uses: an ointment or balm which is made with oils and wax is best for tackling extreme dryness and damaged skin; an oil is good for quick all-over coverage; a cream or lotion is more likely to sting on open skin but can feel less greasy and is more easily absorbed. Pick emollients that are 100% or 99% natural, and avoid those containing perfume or fragrance.
If symptoms don’t improve or worsen after a week, do consult your doctor. A persistent flare, particularly one that gets infected, can be hard to manage and may need medication.
Balmonds Skin Salvation
with hemp and beeswax
Balmonds Daily Moisturising Cream
with shea butter and calendula
Bath & Body Oil
with lavender, hemp and olive
If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.
If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.
Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.