The term dermatitis includes a number of different types of skin problems, but there’s one thing in common about all of them. Dermatitis causes inflammation of the skin. It normally makes the skin red, swollen, itchy and it can cause skin lesions in some people. Although dermatitis is not a terminal disease, nor is it usually incapacitating, some types can cause severe distress in social and work situations because of the way it changes your appearance.
The goal of this article is to answer the most common questions about different types of dermatitis.
What does dermatitis look like? Some people say it resembles a very bad sunburn. Others describe it as looking like you scalded yourself with hot water. Blisters are typical with some types of dermatitis, and so are liquid secretions on the skin’s surface. Some individuals actually make dermatitis look worse by scratching their skin frequently.
What causes dermatitis? There are a number of different causes for dermatitis. Allergies and genetics are among the most common. Among the other frequent causes of dermatitis are environmental pollutants and irritants. Some types of dermatitis may also be triggered by stress – both physical and emotional. Causes, as you might expect, are different for different types of the disease.
Can dermatitis be contagious? Dermatitis is not contagious and cannot be spread to other people.
What different types of dermatitis are there?
Atopic dermatitis This is a chronic, itchy rash that will come and go and it’s often referred to as eczema.
Eczema sometimes runs in families, with severe cases appearing in children. Often, it improves as the child grows older. Most doctors believe stress cannot cause eczema, but it seems stress can aggravate the condition. The exact cause of atopic dermatitis remains unclear. A problem with the immune system may be a factor, and you are also more likely to get eczema if you are genetically predisposed to dry, irritable skin.
Eczema is typically treated with lotions containing hydrocortisone that are applied to the skin.
Contact or allergic dermatitis This type of dermatitis occurs when a irritant literally “makes contact” with your skin and causes a rash.
Seborrheic dermatitis The most prominent symptom of this type of dermatitis is a red rash combined with yellowish, oily-looking scales on the scalp. This kind of dermatitis is known as cradle cap when it happens to an infant. Adults who have Parkinson’s appear to be at higher risk for seborrheic dermatitis, as are those under a great deal of physical stress. Individuals with oily hair are also more prone to have this type of dermatitis.
The best treatment for seborrheic dermatitis is usually a shampoo that contains tar, pyrithione zinc, salicylic acid or ketoconazole as the active ingredient. Other treatment options include hydrocortisone creams and lotions.
Perioral dermatitis This kind of dermatitis, which typically causes a rash near the mouth, is probably a type rosacea, seborrheic dermatitis or adult acne. Certain moisturizers, makeup and topical corticosteroids may make this condition worse, so don’t try to self-treat it – talk to your doctor about ways to get relief.
Perioral dermatitis sometimes takes a long while to heal, but it generally goes away when you take the oral antibiotic tetracycline. It may be necessary for you to continue treatment for several months to prevent a recurrence.
Neurodermatitis Psoriasis, eczema and dry skin are often associated with this type of dermatitis. This kind of dermatitis typically features an itching sensation in a specific part of the body, especially the neck, wrists, ankles or arms. Wet compresses may help, and doctors often recommend hydrocortisone lotions and creams. In some cases, anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants may be appropriate. Most important, you must avoid scratching the affected area of the skin. It will make the condition much worse.
Stasis dermatitis When there’s an accumulation of fluid under the skin for some reason, stasis dermatitis often results. Because of this fluid accumulation, the skin can’t get the nourishment it needs. Generally speaking, this type of dermatitis appears in the legs. The first step in treatment is to diagnose the cause of the fluid build up and correct it. Elastic support hose may be one answer, but sometimes surgery is necessary. Sometimes, you can get relief by applying wet dressings, which not only soften fragile, thickened skin but help prevent infection.
Would you like additional information on dermatitis? Click on What Are The Different Kinds of Dermatitis and Symptoms And Treatment Of Atopic Dermatitis. Neal Kennedy is a retired radio and TV reporter with a special interest in treating skin problems and diseases. You can read more of his articles by visiting Skin Problems And Skin Care.