Weeping Eczema: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

By Zina Semenovskaya, MD
Medically reviewed
November 22, 2021

Eczema is a general term for a group of conditions that cause skin inflammation, swelling, discoloration, dryness, and itch.

There are seven different types of eczema: atopic dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, contact dermatitis, discoid eczema, neurodermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, and stasis dermatitis.

Approximately 30% of the U.S. population will experience eczema in their lifetime.

Those who suffer from hay fever and asthma are more susceptible to eczema, and it mostly affects young children and adolescents.

Unfortunately, there is no permanent cure for eczema, and if left untreated, it can turn into severe eczema that weeps and causes infection.

In this article, I’ll explore the types of weeping eczema, the symptoms and causes, as well as treatment options—including home remedies.

I’ll also discuss when you should see a doctor about your symptoms.

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What is Weeping Eczema?

Weeping eczema is eczema with pus-filled blisters that are usually yellow or clear.

These blisters weep—leaking ooze and wetness—and can eventually dry into a crusty layer on your skin.

Over time, this may result in the skin drying, cracking, and thickening.

Weeping eczema can develop from a skin infection when a person scratches an affected area.

This allows microorganisms—such as bacteria, viruses, or fungi—to enter the body.

Types of Weeping Eczema

Dyshidrotic Eczema

Dyshidrotic eczema, sometimes referred to as pompholyx, is a skin condition that causes tiny blisters to develop on the palms and fingers, and sometimes on the soles of the feet.

These blisters are extremely itchy, tempting patients to scratch. 

This type of eczema can be brought on by seasonal allergies.

It can affect people of any age, but is more common in people under 40 years old.

The blisters that develop from dyshidrotic eczema tend to last about 2-3 weeks before they dry out and flake off.

Patients often develop new blisters before their old ones heal.

Topical corticosteroids combined with soaking or applying cool compresses are the best methods for treating dyshidrotic eczema. 

Nummular Eczema

Nummular eczema, also known as discoid eczema and nummular dermatitis, manifests as circular, itchy patches on the skin that can sometimes ooze.

These coin-shaped patches appear on legs, arms, hands, or the torso.

On people with light complexions, these patches will appear red.

People with darker complexions may develop brown or pale patches instead.

Discoid eczema can sometimes be mistaken for other skin diseases like ringworm, psoriasis, or fungal infection.

Nummular eczema tends to affect males more than females, and is usually brought on by sensitive or dry skin, or from an insect bite, chemical burn, or scrape.

Infection

Weeping eczema can also occur if there is an infection.

Most of these infections with eczema are caused by excessive scratching, which makes the skin more susceptible to contracting harmful bacteria.

It is very important to seek medical advice from a doctor or pharmacist if the pus weeping from your skin is colored—yellow, green, brown, or any color other than clear. This  can be an indicator of infection. 

Symptoms of Weeping Eczema

  • Blisters or pus on the skin
  • Skin that weeps a yellow, honey-colored, or clear fluid
  • Itching, and reddening of the skin that causes a rash
  • Dry crusts on the skin
  • Fever or flu-like symptoms
  • Small, red spots around body hair
  • Swollen glands in the neck, armpit, or groin area

Causes of Weeping Eczema

Several factors can cause eczema, including a personal or family history of allergies, stress, and exposure to environmental factors that irritate the skin.

Weeping eczema indicates infection in your eczema, usually the result of scratching the area until the skin breaks.

This broken skin allows microorganisms like bacteria, fungi, and viruses to enter the body. 

Some infections that can cause weeping eczema include:

  • Staph infection: A staph infection is caused by staphylococcus aureus bacteria spreading throughout the body. On typical, healthy skin, it does not cause any problems. But on skin that has been broken, bacteria can enter deeper layers, triggering an infection.
  • Fungal infections: Candida albicans is a type of pathogenic yeast that normally lives on the skin and inside the body. But if it grows out of control, it can cause infection.
  • Herpes simplex viruses: This virus is commonly known as herpes. There are two types: type 1 and type 2. Herpes can be transmitted through oral secretions or sores on the skin. The virus can lay dormant in the skin, and an individual can experience breakouts brought on by stress, fatigue, trauma to the affected area, menstruation, and general illnesses that attack the immune system. Without treatment, this condition can have severe ramifications, including scarring, blindness, and in extreme cases, death. For this reason, those who suffer from eczema should avoid contact with individuals who have cold sores, and seek medical attention for any suspected infections.

Treatment Options

There is no cure for eczema, and those who experience eczema may have flare-ups at various points in their lives.

But patients can contain their condition with prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications, as well as lifestyle changes.

A doctor or pharmacist may prescribe one of the following medicines to help keep symptoms at bay.

  • Topical treatments: Ointments are available in both prescription and non-prescription anti-inflammatory forms. These are applied directly to the affected area to ease itching and inflammation. Most topical treatments include prescription steroids, calcineurin inhibitors, and PDE4 inhibitors. The right one for you will depend on the severity of your eczema.
  • Allergy medications: OTC antihistamines such as cetirizine (Zyrtec), loratadine (Claritin), and diphenhydramine (Benadryl) for allergies can help treat contact dermatitis brought on by allergies. 
  • Shampoos: OTC medicated shampoos can treat seborrheic dermatitis on the scalp. They contain active ingredients that lift the seborrheic dermatitis scales from the scalp, and combat the overgrowth of a type of yeast called Malassezia. 

Home Remedies

Since eczema is an ongoing battle for many, knowing how to treat your eczema with at-home remedies can help with flare-ups.

Manage your symptoms with these home remedies that you can use in conjunction with topical steroids.

  • Take a bath with colloidal oatmeal or baking soda: Add oatmeal or baking soda to a warm water bath. This can help soothe inflamed, itchy skin. Avoid harsh soaps.
  • Try a wet wrap: Apply a clean, damp washcloth to the affected area. Keeping the skin moist can relieve itchiness and inflammation.
  • Keep your fingernails short: This will avoid doing serious damage to your skin if you scratch. 
  • Use honey: When used topically in conjunction with corticosteroids, honey has been shown in studies to help alleviate eczema symptoms. Talk to your doctor before applying anything with your medication, though.
  • Wear loose cotton clothing: Avoid tight clothing that doesn’t breathe and may rub or chafe your skin. Keep your skin cool. Being hot and sweaty can trigger itching.
  • Keep your skin moist: Moisturize your skin regularly with products that are for sensitive skin types. Use fragrance-free oils and water-based lotions. These will not irritate the skin.
  • Take supplements: Take daily supplements such as vitamin D and probiotics which can help repair dry, damaged skin and prevent dermatitis.
  • Don’t use irritants: Use cleaning products and detergents that are unscented or suitable for sensitive skin. Wear gloves when using cleaning products to avoid direct contact with the skin.

If you are treating your child’s eczema, speak with your pediatrician to determine the best treatment options.

Eczema can flare up in the winter, with cold, windy weather causing dry, chapped skin.

To ease your child’s eczema, moisturize your child, wrap them in wet wraps, and in some circumstances, soak them in a bleach bath to kill any harmful bacteria on their skin.

This bath should not contain much bleach—just a half-cup of bleach in a full tub of water—to kill the bacteria on their skin.

Remember, lukewarm baths are better than long, hot baths that can dry out the skin.

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When to See a Doctor

Infections can spread quickly, so it is important to seek medical attention at the first signs of infection, including weeping skin.

Your doctor will examine the affected skin. They may do a skin test.

This typically involves applying a swab to the affected area to determine what type of infection you have.

From there, your doctor can prescribe you the necessary medicine.

How K Health Can Help

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Download K to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed text with a doctor in minutes. K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you stop eczema from weeping?
There are several home remedies to help you stop weeping. The best thing you can do is to stop scratching, apply a wet cloth to the area, wear loose clothing, and moisturize your skin with fragrance-free lotions that are suited for sensitive skin.
What can I put on weeping eczema?
Topical ointments containing hydrocortisone can help treat weeping eczema. You can also apply a wet compress to the area to reduce itching and inflammation. Honey is a home remedy you can use to ease skin irritation.
What does it mean when your eczema is weeping?
Weeping eczema is a sign that your skin has become infected and needs medical treatment. Infections can spread quickly throughout the body. That’s why it’s important to consult a doctor to determine the right course of treatment.
What happens if you leave weeping eczema untreated?
This can result in a serious infection, including a staph infection, fungal infection, or herpes. Seek medical attention if your eczema is weeping or if you suspect you have an infection so your doctor can diagnose you and prescribe the right treatment.
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Zina Semenovskaya, MD

Dr. Semenovskaya specializes in emergency medicine, and received her medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical College. She is currently the medical director at Remote Emergency Medicine Consulting, LLC and splits her time working clinically as an emergency medicine attending in California and Alaska. She is the first of our doctors to be fluent in Russian.