What Is Weeping Eczema?

Eczema is the name of a group of skin conditions that are characterized by an extremely itchy rash that is often dry and flaky.

Eczema affects the skin and the immune system. The condition damages the skin barrier, making it more prone to dryness and infection. It also activates the immune system and causes it to overreact to irritants and allergens. The overreaction causes skin inflammation.

Eczema affects up to 15 million Americans and is more common in people who have a history of asthma and allergies.

Weeping eczema is when an eczema rash has tiny blisters that ooze pus. Weeping eczema can occur with certain types of eczema or can indicate an infection. Here is an overview of the condition, including the signs and symptoms, causes, and treatments.

Person with dark skin and black hair scratches their upper arm

Anupong Thongchan / Getty Images

Types of Weeping Eczema

There are many types of eczema. Some are prone to blisters and weeping. Weeping eczema may also happen if there is an infection in the skin.

Dyshidrotic Eczema

Dyshidrotic eczema produces tiny, itchy blisters. The rash is usually found on the hands and feet and can last up to a month before clearing.

Dyshidrotic eczema may happen once, occasionally, or be chronic and debilitating.

Nummular Eczema

Nummular eczema usually occurs on the limbs and hands. This type is characterized by tiny bumps and blisters that occur after an injury to the skin; coin-shaped raised spots; and an extremely itchy and dry rash.

Scratching patches of nummular eczema can lead to infections.

Infection

Weeping eczema can also occur with any form of eczema if there is an infection. Most infections with eczema are caused by excessive scratching. The weeping caused by infection is usually pus-colored and accompanied by other signs of infection. 

All types of eczema are extremely itchy, which means that scratching is common. However, scratching can lead to infection.

Weeping Eczema Symptoms

The main symptom of weeping eczema is a rash that oozes and crusts over. The weeping is more prone to occur in certain types of eczema. It can also be caused by excessive scratching, which can break the skin and cause an infection.

Signs of weeping eczema that may indicate an infection include:

  • Honey-colored crusts
  • Blisters
  • Crusts and open sores
  • Red, swollen bumps
  • Red streaks on the skin

There are other signs of infection that go beyond the skin that you should be aware of. If you have these signs or symptoms, it can also indicate an infection:

When to Call a Doctor

If you have a weeping rash or other signs of infection, contact your doctor right away. In addition to your normal eczema treatment, you may require antibiotics or other medications to treat a secondary infection. 

Causes

The exact cause of eczema is not known. However, some factors can make people more prone to developing eczema, including:

  • A personal history of allergies
  • A family history of allergies
  • Exposure to environmental irritants
  • Stress

In addition to being more at risk for eczema in general, there are certain risk factors that may make you more prone to developing a certain type of eczema.

You might be more at risk for dyshidrotic eczema if you:

  • Have existing eczema
  • Frequently have sweaty or wet hands
  • Work with metal or cement

You might be more at risk for nummular eczema if you:

  • Are under intense stress
  • Are exposed to excessively dry or humid air
  • Have a skin injury or skin infection
  • Are a heavy user of alcohol

How Skin Damage From Scratching Can Worsen Eczema

Eczema is extremely itchy. People with the condition, especially children, often find it hard not to scratch the rash. However, scratching eczema can cause tiny tears in the skin. These openings allow bacteria, fungus, and viruses to enter and cause an infection.

Scratching an eczema rash damages the skin and can lead to weeping eczema and infections.

When you have eczema, the top layer of your skin is already damaged and there is less protection within the skin. The compromised skin caused by eczema makes people with the condition more prone to skin infections.

Diagnosis

Eczema can be diagnosed by your primary care physician or a dermatologist. A doctor will examine your skin closely to look for signs of eczema and rule out other skin disorders like psoriasis.

Depending on what your skin looks like and the symptoms you have, your doctor might want to order some tests. Examples of tests that can help a doctor diagnose eczema include:

  • Allergy skin test
  • Blood tests
  • Skin biopsy

If your eczema is weeping, your doctor will need to determine if the weeping is being caused by an infection. To rule out infection, your doctor will observe the color and redness of your rash and blisters. They will also ask you about any symptoms you are experiencing, like pain or fever.

Your doctor might want to take a bacterial culture to see if there is an infection. This test can also tell them which type of bacteria is causing the infection.

Treatment

There is no cure for eczema. Treatment is focused on preventing and managing flare-ups of the condition. There are several approaches, and a person’s age and the severity of their eczema will determine the type of treatment used.

There are several types of medications that can be used to treat eczema, including:

  • Topical steroids: Effective for reducing itchiness and inflammation
  • Topical calcineurin inhibitors: Controls inflammation by inhibiting the function of the enzyme that activates T cells of the immune system
  • Antihistamines: Taken by mouth (orally) to reduce itching
  • Antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals: Used to control secondary infections
  • Systemic medications: Usually reserved for severe cases
  • Biologics: Such as Dupixent (dupilumab), which is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat moderate to severe eczema. New treatments are also being researched and may prove promising for some people with eczema.

Other treatments can include:

  • Cutaneous hydration: Emollients to keep the skin moist and reduce itching
  • Avoiding triggers: Identifying allergens or sensitivities and avoiding exposure to these triggers
  • Psychological support: Counseling, relaxation, behavioral modification, and biofeedback to break the itch-scratch cycle
  • Phototherapy: UVA-1 for severe lesions and UVB for chronic eczema

Natural Treatments

There are also several complementary medicine approaches to treating eczema, including the use of certain essential oils and supplements. Natural eczema treatments can include:

Prognosis

Some children outgrow eczema. In some cases, eczema does not appear until later in life. Eczema may occur infrequently or be chronic. Eczema is not curable, but treatments to prevent and control it can help people live with the skin condition.

Eczema affects the skin and can appear anywhere on the body. The condition can impact people’s self-esteem and confidence. People with eczema may feel too embarrassed to attend social events or everyday activities. Weeping eczema can make people feel especially self-conscious. 

Following your doctor’s recommendations for treatment and keeping your skin moisturized can help prevent flare-ups. In addition to physical treatment to prevent and control eczema, people with eczema may benefit from social and emotional support, like psychotherapy and support groups.

Summary

Eczema is a frustrating condition that does not have a cure. However, there are lots of treatments that focus on prevention and managing flare-ups. Weeping eczema is characterized by a yellow, crusty rash that is a sign of infected skin. Taking steps to prevent flare-ups and infection if you have eczema is an important part of managing the condition.

If you develop weeping eczema, you'll need to talk to your doctor about the best course of treatment for addressing the infection.

A Word From Verywell

See your doctor if you have weeping eczema to ensure it is not an infection that requires treatment. Even if you find it is not an infection, developing a treatment plan with your doctor to manage your eczema is important.

Talk to your doctor if you are having emotional difficulty with your eczema. You may benefit from therapy or group support.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you dry up weeping eczema?

Weeping eczema requires treatment. You will need to work with a doctor (usually a dermatologist) to develop a treatment plan.

Treatment of weeping eczema may include:

  • Soaks and cool compresses
  • Topical steroids
  • Anti-itch medication
  • Moisturizers

If weeping eczema is caused by an infection, your doctor will prescribe medication to treat the infection.

How do you treat weeping eczema?

Eczema treatments focus on the prevention and management of flare-ups. Treatments may include keeping the skin moist, avoiding allergens and environmental triggers, reducing stress, topical medication, and systemic medication.

If you have weeping eczema, you might require antibiotics or antifungals.

How long does weeping eczema last?

There is not a definitive answer to how long weeping eczema will last. Eczema is different for every person who has it. People with eczema also respond to treatment differently.

Weeping eczema is not curable. While some people will outgrow eczema—especially if they had it as children—others will need to manage flare-ups for the rest of their lives.

If weeping eczema is caused by a secondary infection, the sores should go away once the infection is treated. Blisters from dyshidrotic and nummular eczema can last three to four weeks before clearing.

What is the fluid from weeping eczema?

The fluid from weeping eczema is usually yellow with a honey-colored crust, which signifies an infection is present. The infections can be bacterial, fungal, or viral and are often caused by excessive scratching.

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