What Is Nummular Eczema?

Medically Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on April 26, 2022
3 min read

Eczema refers to a group of conditions that cause itchy, inflamed skin. In nummular eczema, the itchy, inflamed areas are circular. “Nummular” means coin-shaped. That helps explain why you can also call the condition discoid eczema. Doctors might also use the name nummular dermatitis.

This type of eczema most often shows up on hands, arms, or lower legs. The affected areas are usually red, pinkish, or brown. They may look scaly or ooze. But don’t worry, eczema is not contagious.

Anyone can get nummular eczema, but some people may have a higher risk.

It’s more common in:

  • Men than women
  • People who have very dry or sensitive skin
  • People who already have another type of eczema

Sometimes an insect bite, cut, chemical burn, or problem with your blood flow sets it off. It can also be triggered if you have an allergy or if you’re very sensitive to something you touch (hypersensitivity).

It’s important to see a dermatologist to find out for sure what’s causing your symptoms. Nummular eczema can look like several other common skin conditions, including:

Dermatologists are skin experts. Yours might be able to identify nummular eczema just by looking at it. Or, to be certain, the doctor might scrape off a little skin and send it to a lab for analysis.

Nummular eczema rarely gets better with over-the-counter treatments and home remedies alone. Your dermatologist will probably prescribe an ointment or cream to ease inflammation and stop the itch.

People who have nummular eczema often get staph infections in the affected areas. If that happens to you, you’ll also need an antibiotic that you swallow or apply to your skin.

If you have a lot of oozing, the doctor might recommend an astringent, such as witch hazel or calamine lotion, to help dry out the sores.

Some people with nummular eczema have trouble sleeping because they’re so itchy. For that, your dermatologist might suggest a sleep aid (such as a sedating antihistamine) to help you doze off while your skin heals.

After treatment, your skin might return to normal. But nummular eczema often comes back -- possibly in the same area. If you have frequent flares, ask your dermatologist whether you should make any specific lifestyle changes. Your doctor might suggest stress management techniques or changing a medication you take that could be irritating your skin.

If your doctor believes an allergy or hypersensitivity is to blame, a type of allergy test called patch testing can help sort it out. Up to half of people with nummular eczema who don’t respond to the typical treatments have some type of allergy. Once you know what you’re allergic to -- perhaps a metal like nickel, a fabric like wool, or a fragrance in your personal care products -- you can avoid it.

To maintain healthy skin and lessen the risk of the condition coming back, it’s also important to keep your skin well-hydrated. These might help:

  • Quick, lukewarm (not long, hot) showers
  • Thick moisturizing cream
  • A humidifier if the air in your home is dry