Dermatitis is a general term that describes an
inflammation of the skin. Although dermatitis can have many causes and occurs
in many forms, this disorder usually involves an itchy rash on swollen,
reddened skin. Skin affected by dermatitis may blister, ooze, develop a crust
or flake off. Examples of dermatitis include atopic dermatitis (eczema),
dandruff, and rashes caused by contact with poison ivy or certain metals.
A number of health conditions, allergies, genetic factors and irritants can cause different types of dermatitis:
Atopic dermatitis (eczema). This condition often occurs with allergies and frequently occurs in families in which members have asthma, hay fever or eczema.
Contact dermatitis. This condition results from direct contact with one of many irritants or allergens — such as poison ivy; jewelry containing nickel; and certain cleaning products, perfumes and cosmetics.
Seborrheic dermatitis. This condition is common in people with oily skin or hair, and it may come and go depending on the season. It's likely that hereditary factors play a role in this condition.
Each type of dermatitis may look a little different and may tend to occur on different parts of your body. The most common types of dermatitis include:
Atopic dermatitis (eczema).Usually beginning in infancy, this red, itchy rash most commonly occurs where the skin flexes — inside the elbows, behind the knees and the front of the neck. When scratched, the rash can leak fluid and crust over.
Contact dermatitis. This rash occurs on areas of the body that have come into contact with substances that either irritate the skin or cause an allergic reaction, such as poison ivy. The rash may burn, sting or itch. Blisters may develop.
Seborrheic dermatitis. This condition causes a red rash with yellowish and somewhat "oily" scales, usually on the scalp and sometimes on the face, especially around the ears and nose. It's a common cause of dandruff. In infants, this disorder is known as cradle cap.
What are the treatments for dermatitis?
The first step in treating dermatitis is to identify and eliminate the cause. Most mild skin inflammation responds well to room temperature baths followed by application of fragrance-free moisturising lotions or over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream.
Seborrhoeic dermatitis may respond to anti-dandruff shampoo. These products may contain tar, salicylic acid, zinc pyrithione, ketoconazole, sulfur or selenium, any of which may be effective.Once chemicals causing contact dermatitis are identified, treatment will be based on avoidance, symptom relief and other coping mechanisms.
To help clear the lesions of nummular dermatitis, apply a moisturising lotion and corticosteroid cream.If you suffer from stasis dermatitis, wear support stockings and elevate your legs to reduce their swelling. Also, the underlying condition that is causing the leg swelling should be controlled. If an open ulcer gets infected, antibiotics may be needed.
To reduce inflammation and heal the irritation of most types of dermatitis, a doctor will usually recommend a prescription corticosteroid cream and may prescribe an oral antihistamine to relieve severe itching and an antibiotic if a secondary infection develops. Severe cases of dermatitis may call for corticosteroid tablets or, in rare cases, injections.