Understanding Papular Eczema: Symptoms, Causes And Treatment

There are many different types of eczema. Mild or severe, eczema can be dry, itchy, and uncomfortable. Ask anyone who suffers from eczema, and they’ll tell you it isn’t any fun—and papular eczema is no exception.

Here, we’ll dive into what papular eczema looks like, what the symptoms are, and what you can do to treat this skin condition.

What is Papular Eczema?

Papular eczema also known as papular dermatitis, subacute prurigo, and itchy red bump disease, is a skin condition that causes small, itchy bumps, or eczema papules, to appear on the skin. People with papular eczema may also experience symptoms of standard eczema (also called atopic dermatitis), such as dry, itchy patches or flaky skin.

In people with darker skin tones, these eczema papules may be flesh-colored. Papular eczema on dark skin may also be reddish-brown or purple-gray in appearance. They may appear in a diffuse pattern that corresponds to where hair follicles are, and some people experience papular eczema on elbows as well.

These itchy bumps can become infected if they’re repeatedly scratched. While there’s no cure for papular eczema, you can manage symptoms of papular eczema with proper care.

What Causes Papular Eczema?

Like other eczema, the exact cause of papular eczema is still not known. However, it is believed to be caused by a combination of factors such as genetics, environmental factors, and skin barrier dysfunction. 

People who experience eczema have an issue with the gene that creates a lack of protein called filaggrin. Filaggrin is responsible for creating and maintaining the skin’s protective barrier. But when this barrier is weakened, it is unable to protect the skin against outside irritants and allergens, and difficult to retain moisture in the skin.

This condition leads to dry, itchy, irritated, eczema-prone skin. Some environmental triggers that can cause papular eczema are:

  • Pollen
  • Dyes
  • Fragrances
  • Smoke
  • Detergent
  • Dry air
  • Extreme weather 

What Does Papular Eczema Look Like?

One of the prominent symptoms of papular eczema that makes it look different from any other eczema rash is the papules and bumps that appear on the skin. Some other common symptoms of papular eczema are:

Symptoms Of Papular Eczema In Babies

The symptoms of papular eczema are a little different from the ones that appear in adults and older children. In babies, papular eczema usually appears on the cheeks, arms, and legs. The papules on Baby’s skin can also ooze fluid. Some other symptoms that you may notice are:

  • Sleep disturbance
  • Signs of discomfort
  • Dry skin
  • Rubbing the skin against the surface
  • Skin prone to infection.

Distinguishing Papular Eczema from Atopic Dermatitis

It’s fairly easy to tell papular eczema from atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis, or standard eczema, appears as a red or brown flaky rash, whereas papular eczema is dry skin with bumps. These small papules look similar to pimples but without the white head. They replace the raised, thickened, flaky rash common with atopic dermatitis.

If you suspect you have papular eczema, talk with a doctor or dermatologist to confirm and discuss your treatment options. Mild cases of eczema are generally treated with moisturizers and other over-the-counter preparations. 

For more mild to severe cases, your doctor may suggest prescription treatments ranging from topical ointments, creams, and oral or injectable medications.

Who’s at Risk for Papular Eczema?

While anyone can develop papular eczema, a strong genetic component predisposes you to the condition.

For reasons not entirely understood, people of color are more susceptible, particularly people of Asian or African descent. You’re also more at risk if you or a family member has a history of eczema, asthma, or hay fever.

External factors can also trigger the condition, particularly in individuals prone to allergies. Irritants like pollen, smoke, dry air, and chemical fragrances can provoke an allergic response in the body giving rise to inflammation and the characteristic raised bumps.

How to Treat Papular Eczema

To treat papular eczema, simple home remedies are often sufficient for mild cases. Your number one priority is guarding and strengthening your skin’s natural protective barrier.


This skin barrier helps with moisture retention in normal skin while blocking external irritants. Improper gene expressions in people with eczema cause a weakened version of this barrier. Moisture is lost quickly, leading to dry, uncomfortable skin. Simultaneously, irritants penetrate the skin more readily, triggering an inflammatory response.

Keeping The Skin Clean

  • Start by keeping your skin clean—but don’t overwash it, as this can also damage the skin barrier. 
  • Limit your showers and baths to ten minutes, and use lukewarm water, as long, hot soaks can damage your skin.

Protect your skin with a complete solution, like Dr. Eddie’s Happy Cappy skincare routine for dry skin. Use Happy Cappy Daily Shampoo and Body Wash to clean your skin while protecting its critical barrier gently.

This eczema shampoo is free of harsh chemicals, fragrances, and other irritants that can cause an outbreak. Using a non-soap (sulfate-free) cleanser that’s hypoallergenic and has a low pH is super important when it comes to addressing skin with eczema.

Moisturizing The Skin

Happy Cappy Hand Eczema Cream

  • After your shower, pat dry and immediately apply Happy Cappy Moisturizing Cream for Eczema. Its light, hypoallergenic formula soothes dry, irritated skin while locking in critical moisture. 
  • You can also apply this eczema cream at other times during the day whenever your skin is feeling dry or irritated. 
  • It is best to moisturize your skin at least twice daily with a moisturizing eczema cream.

Glycerin, a key ingredient in this eczema cream, has been shown to help reduce eczema flares. Learn more here about a study showing how the pairing of ingredients licorice root extract and glycerin can lead to reductions in eczema flares.

Don’t Scratch

For papular eczema that’s not itchy, over-the-counter moisturizers often do the trick. If you find that your eczema is too itchy to bear, try not to scratch, as scratching can worsen your symptoms and lead to long-lasting pigmentary changes. 

Consult The Doctor

As we mentioned before, check with your doctor about prescription or steroid cream options; there are oral over-the-counter anti-itch preparations like diphenhydramine that can bring some relief at night (note: it typically causes drowsiness). These stronger medications can help provide relief and prevent damage to your skin barrier. Ask your doctor which might be right for you.

Is Papular Eczema Contagious?

Due to the papules and bumps a lot of people think that papular eczema is contagious –it is not true. It is a chronic skin condition and is not contagious. You can not spread it to others by touching.

Physiological Effect Of Papular Eczema

The continuous itching, irritation, and appearance of papules and bumps on the skin can lead to other physiological issues, especially in adults. The continuous itching at night can make it difficult to sleep, which as a result causes a lack of concentration and restlessness throughout the day.

The appearance of bumps and rashes on the skin and itching in public places like the office can lead to self-consciousness, anxiety, and depression. The appearance of rash can be very irritating for people who are concerned about their self-image.


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Dr. Eddie Valenzuela is an award winning pediatrician and the founder and CEO of Pediatric Solutions, LLC.

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Why do I have tiny bumps on my hands?

If you have tiny bumps on your hand and have a history of eczema, you may be experiencing papular eczema. It is best to consult a doctor so they can diagnose it and provide you with the best treatment plan, which will likely involve topical steroids.

Do the papular eczema bumps ever go away?

These bumps are usually blisters filled with fluid. These bumps can heal with the help of proper care and treatment. First, the fluid will ooze and become dry and flaky. Then, these patches will start disappearing with time.

Does papular eczema itch?

Yes, like other types of eczema, papular eczema can also become very itchy. To soothe the itchiness, try using Happy Cappy Moisturizing Cream. It contains Licorice root extract that helps soothe irritation and itchiness.

What can trigger papular eczema?

What can trigger papular eczema?

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