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Nummular Dermatitis

(Discoid Dermatitis)

By Karen McKoy, MD, MPH, Assistant Clinical Professor, Dermatology; Senior Staff, Harvard Medical School; Lahey Clinic Dermatology

Nummular dermatitis is a persistent, usually itchy rash and inflammation characterized by coin-shaped spots, often with tiny blisters, scabs, and scales.

The cause of nummular dermatitis is unknown. Nummular dermatitis usually affects middle-aged and older people and occurs along with dry skin, especially in winter. Dermatophytid reactions may manifest as nummular dermatitis. However, the rash may come and go without any apparent reason.


The round spots start as itchy patches of pimples and blisters that later ooze and form crusts. The rash may be widespread. Often, spots are more obvious on the backs of the arms or legs and on the buttocks, but they also appear on the torso. New spots tend to appear in areas where old spots have healed.


  • A doctor's examination of the skin

  • Possibly tests to rule out infections or allergies

Doctors base the diagnosis of nummular dermatitis on the characteristic appearance of the rash.

They may do tests for bacteria or fungi to rule out infections or allergies.


  • Skin moisturizers

Most people benefit from skin moisturizers. Other treatments of nummular dermatitis include antibiotics taken by mouth; tap-water compresses; corticosteroid creams, injections, and/or pills; and phototherapy (exposure to ultraviolet light—see Phototherapy).