Understanding Medicine – What is Dermatitis

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with dermatitis, you may be wondering what it is, how you got it, and how to get rid of it. Dermatitis is a term used to describe an inflammation of the skin. Because this is a general term, there are many different types and causes of dermatitis No matter what you call it, red, swollen, itchy skin can leave you miserable.

Types of Dermatitis

Each of the different types of dermatitis has its own signs and symptoms with the most common symptoms being lesions, redness, swelling, and itching.

Atopic dermatitis (eczema) — mistype of dermatitis usually occurs with allergies and can run in families. Dry, irritable skin along with allergies is a sign of this condition. Stress can make it worse though it does not cause it. Hydrocortisone lotions and antihistamines are typically used to treat this type of dermatitis

Contact dermatitis – As the name implies, this type of dermatitis is the result of contact with an irritant such as soap, detergent, and cleaning products or an allergen such as rubber, jewelry, perfume, cosmetics, and poison ivy. Treatment revolves around discovering the irritant and eliminating it. Hydrocortisone creams and wet dressing are often used to provide relief.

Neuro dermatitis – Irritation from tight fitting clothes that rub and scratch your skin often results in this condition. The main treatment involves stopping your from scratching the area and providing relief with hydrocortisone lotions. Difficult to remove dressings are often applied to act as a physical barrier against scratching.

Perioral dermatitis – This condition affects the area around the mouth or nose and may be related to rosacea, seborrheic dermatitis, or adult acne. Oral antibiotics such as tetracycline are typically prescribed to threat this condition. Seborrheic dermatitis- If you’ve heard of cradle cap in infants, you may be familiar with this condition. The signs of this are a red rash with a yellow, oily scale. People with oily skin and hair are commonly affected. Frequent shampooing and thorough rinsing are usually recommended to treat this condition. Your doctor might suggest a specific brand of shampoo.

Stasis dermatitis – This form of dermatitis involves fluid buildup in the areas beneath your skin which interferes with nourishment of the skin. In addition, the fluid buildup places great pressure on your skin from below. The lower leg is the area most affected. Treatment involves correcting the condition that caused the fluid buildup. Varicose vein surgery or elastic support hose are often used.

The Next Step

Depending on the severity of the condition, you may or may not need to seek medical advice. For example, if you suspect that minor itching is due to the new laundry detergent you just bought, re-launder your clothes using your old brand and see if your contact dermatitis clears up. Contact dermatitis can take a week or two to clear up completely. On the other hand, if the itching is severe, your skin is extremely painful, you suspect an infection, or if you are unsure, give your doctor a call.


Itchy skin leads to scratching which can tear the skin making it susceptible to infection. Staph and strep infections are common complications as is scarring.

A serious, life-threatening complication called cellulitis requires immediate attention. Cellulitis is a bacterial infection that appears as red streaks with intensely inflamed, swollen skin that is tender, red, and warm to the touch. Spreading, indistinct margins also appear. Call your doctor right away, especially if you have a compromised immune system.

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Updated: December 10, 2015 — 12:40 am

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If you feel that you have a health problem, you should seek the advice of your Physician or health care Practitioner.

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