Itchy Red Circles on the Skin

If you have itchy red circles on your skin that come and go or tend to worsen at times, you may be dealing with a condition known as nummular eczema. Nummular eczema is just one of many different types of eczema that cause skin scales, inflammation, redness and visible irritation, according to EczemaNet 1.


Nummular eczema, also known as nummular eczematous dermatitis or discoid eczema, is a chronic condition that presents as a coin-shaped rash on the skin, according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology 2. Nummular eczema can form as a single red circle or many circles on the arms and legs. Some instances of nummular eczema can spread to the torso. The circles of the rash are well-defined and can be either dark red and crusty or a paler shade of red and barely noticeable. Nummular eczema can persist for weeks or even months at a time.


The exact cause of the itchy red circles associated with nummular eczema is unknown. But the DermNet NZ website explains that the condition is not linked to food allergies or heredity, and it is not contagious. For a person who is susceptible, even the slightest injury to the skin can incite the development of the rash. Hot or cold weather can aggravate nummular eczema. Frequent bathing and the use of fragrant soaps, detergents and fabric softeners can do the same.


While there is no cure for nummular eczema, taking precautionary measures can reduce symptoms. According to the McKinley Health Center, located at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the itchy red circles that develop from nummular eczema are actually dry skin at its worst. The drier your skin, the more serious the eczema flare-up. Showering with lukewarm water instead of hot water, washing your skin with your hand instead of a washcloth, cleansing your skin with a mild soap, patting your skin dry with a towel instead of rubbing and applying a moisturizing lotion immediately after showering can help. A cool mist vaporizer can also reduce winter flare-ups that develop because of dry heat.


If lifestyle changes such as lower water temperature, mild soaps, moisturizers and cool mist vaporizers are not enough to help keep your itchy red circles at bay, a dermatologist may be able to help. According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, stubborn cases of nummular eczema may require the application of a topical steroid or coal tar-based ointment. A pea-sized amount of topical preparation used once a day may help calm the skin.


Although nummular eczema is extremely itchy, it is best to avoid scratching as much as possible. Bacteria under your fingernails can enter the broken skin of the eczema site and cause an infection. The Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center website explains that this is a secondary infection, which can produce fever, severe redness and pain. Medical attention and the use of oral and topical antibiotics are necessary to remedy the infection.