Eczema types: Neurodermatitis signs and symptoms
Neurodermatitis is a common type of eczema. If you have neurodermatitis, you may notice one or more of these signs and symptoms:
Neurodermatitis begins with an itchy patch of skin. This patch of skin may itch often or from time to time.
As you scratch or rub that itchy patch of skin, the itchy patch often becomes itchier. Dermatologists refer to this itching and scratching as the itch-scratch-itch cycle. This cycle can be difficult to break.
Most people who develop neurodermatitis have one or two itchy patches. It’s also possible to develop several itchy patches, but this is rare.
The itch often becomes more intense while you’re relaxing or sleeping
The itch also tends to worsen when life becomes stressful.
Some people scratch so much that their skin starts to feel painful. One study found that when neurodermatitis appears on the scalp, people may have both itch and pain.
Raised, rough patch that is violet (in dark skin tones) or red (in light skin tones)
The frequent scratching changes the skin. As you continue to scratch or rub the itchy patch, that patch of skin can turn scaly and look violet to reddish in color.
Neurodermatitis on the back of the neck
Frequent scratching leads to a rough-feeling and discolored patch of skin.
Neurodermatitis is common on the back of the neck
Other common places that neurodermatitis develops are the arms, eyelids, scalp, anus, and genitals.
Open sores that bleed
If you repeatedly scratch or rub the area with neurodermatitis, you may develop open sores that bleed. Open sores increase your risk of developing an infection.
Neurodermatitis on the ankle
Frequent scratching caused this scaly patch of thickened skin and open, bleeding sores.
Scratching can cause an infection. This happens when germs under your fingernails or on your hands get into your body.
If you see honey-colored crusts, fluid leaking from the itchy area, or pus-filled bumps, call your doctor
These are signs of an infection.
Skin thickens and looks leathery
With frequent scratching or rubbing, the skin tends to thicken in order to protect itself. The itchy patch may look leathery and turn a brownish, gray, or reddish in color. You may also notice that the itchy patch feels dry, rough, and scaly. Even when the skin thickens, the itch continues.
Frequent scratching can cause the skin to thicken
Very thick skin can have a grayish hue.
Hair loss or breakage
If you frequently scratch (or rub) your scalp, it can lead to hair loss. Even on the skin, the frequent scratching can cause a bare patch.
Neurodermatitis often causes round, scaly patches on the scalp
The itchy patches on the scalp can cause lots of flaking, which can be mistaken for dandruff.
If scratching causes deep wounds, your skin may scar as it heals.
Neurodermatitis with scarring (white lines)
Skin with scars can itch, too.
What causes this ongoing itching isn’t entirely clear. What scientists have discovered is that some people have a greater risk of developing neurodermatitis.
You can find out if you have a greater risk at, Neurodermatitis: Causes.
1,5,7: Getty Images
2,3,6: Images used with permission of the DermNet NZ.
4, 8: Images used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides
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Paula Ludmann, MS
Pearl E. Grimes, MD, FAAD
Ivy Lee, MD, FAAD
Last updated: 1/20/21