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Eczema types: Neurodermatitis signs & symptoms

When a person has neurodermatitis, the person is likely to notice several of these signs and symptoms:

Itch: Neurodermatitis causes an itchy patch on the surface of the body. Unlike eczema, psoriasis, and other itchy skin conditions, people tend to develop just 1 or 2 patches that itch. While rare, neurodermatitis can cause several itchy patches. 

Neurodermatitis on the ankle and foot

Scratching the neurodermatitis can wound the skin, which may scab as it heals,

Neurodermatitis on the ankle and foot

When people develop neurodermatitis, they often find themselves:           

  • Scratching or rubbing the itchy patch(es), either frequently or sporadically

  • Thinking that the patch(es) itches for no apparent reason

  • Feeling itchiest while relaxing

  • Feeling especially itchy when life becomes stressful

Pain: Some people feel pain. One study found that when neurodermatitis appears on the scalp, it may cause pain, itch, or both.

Raised, rough patch that is red to violet-colored: As the person continues to scratch or rub the itchy patch, a scaly, reddish to violet-colored patch appears.

Skin thickens and looks leathery: With frequent scratching or rubbing, the skin can thicken. The patch may look leathery and turn a brownish color. Very thick skin can have a grayish hue.

Hair loss: The scratching (or rubbing) can cause hair loss on areas like the scalp.

Open sore that bleeds: Repeatedly scratching or rubbing can wound the skin, leading to an open sore that bleeds. If this happens, the person has an increased risk of developing an infection.

Neurodermatitis with scarring (white lines)

Constant scratching of neurodermatitis wears away the skin. As the skin heals, it may scar as shown here.

Neurodermatitis with scarring

Scarring: If a wound is deep, the skin may scar as it heals.

Infection: Signs of infection include honey-colored crusts and fluid leaking from the area. You may also see pus-filled bumps.

Images used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides.

Ambika H, Vinod CS, et. al. “A case of neurodermatitis circumscipta of scalp presenting as patchy alopecia.” Int J Trichology. 2013 Apr;5(2):94-6.

Burgin S. “Nummular eczema and lichen simplex chronicus / prurigo nodularis.” In: Wolff K, Goldsmith LA, et al. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine (seventh edition). McGraw Hill Medical, New York, 2008:160-2.

Cohen AD, Andrews ID. “Similarities between neuropathic pruritus sites and lichen simplex chronicus sites.” Isr Med Assoc J. 2014 Feb;16(2):88-90.

Habif TP, Campbell JL, et al. “Lichen simplex chronicus” (card #7). Dermatology DDxDeck. Mosby Elsevier 2006.

All content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology

The American Academy of Dermatology gratefully acknowledges the support from Leo Pharma, Inc.


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