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Disease: Dermatitis Dermatitis
Category: Dermatological diseases

Disease Definition:

Inflammation of the skin is described by the general term dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis (eczema) and seborrheic dermatitis are some of the types of dermatitis. Although this condition can make a person feel uncomfortable and self-conscious, but it isn't life-threatening or contagious.


Usually, this disorder causes swollen, reddened and itchy skin, but it can have many causes and occur in many forms. Dermatitis could be treated with a combination of self-care steps and medications.

Work Group:

Symptoms, Causes


Some of the types of dermatitis are:


Localized to certain areas of the skin, this type of dermatitis is a chronic itchy skin condition.

Atopic dermatitis:

This type is a chronic itchy rash that has a tendency of coming and going. It is also called eczema or atopic eczema.

Contact dermatitis:

Repeated contact with irritants or contact with allergy-producing substances such as poison ivy can cause this rash.

Stasis dermatitis:

A buildup of fluid under the skin of the legs causes this skin condition.

Perioral dermatitis:

This type causes a bumpy rash around the mouth.

Seborrheic dermatitis:

This is a common scalp condition that causes dandruff.


Swelling, redness, itching and skin lesions are some of the common signs and symptoms of dermatitis, but each type has its distinct signs and symptoms.


Dermatitis is usually caused by numerous health conditions, physical and mental stressors, allergies, irritants and genetic factors.


Direct contact with one of many irritants or allergens results in contact dermatitis. Cleaning products, laundry soap, detergents and skin soaps are some of the common irritants. Perfume; rubber; jewelry; metals, such as nickel; cosmetics; neomycin, which is a common ingredient in topical antibiotic creams; and weeds, such as poison ivy are some of the possible allergens that may cause contact dermatitis.


Having contact with an allergen can cause dermatitis in a shorter period of time than having contact with an irritant. A brief exposure to a tiny amount of an allergen can cause dermatitis in case the person is sensitized to it. When someone develops sensitivity to an allergen, they usually have it for the rest of their lives.


When something creates an itchy sensation in a specific area of the skin, neurodermatitis occurs, causing the person to scratch or rub their skin repeatedly in the affected area. The back of the neck, outer forearm or arm, ankles and wrists are some of the locations that are commonly affected by this condition. Contact dermatitis that is caused by allergens doesn't seem to be a factor in the development of this condition. Eczema, dry skin and psoriasis are some of the skin conditions that may be associated with neurodermatitis.

Atopic dermatitis usually runs in families in which members have hay fever or asthma and it occurs with allergies. This condition usually begins in infancy and during childhood and adolescence, its severity may vary. Unless a person is exposed to irritants or allergens in their workplace, this condition usually becomes milder in adulthood.


This disorder is probably caused by a combination of dry, irritable skin together with a malfunction in the body's immune system, but its exact cause is still not known. Although stress doesn't cause atopic dermatitis, but it can make it worse.


A red rash with yellowish and fairly "oily" scales that usually appear on the skin is the result of seborrheic dermatitis. This condition, which may come and go based on the season of the year, is quite common in people with oily hair or skin. Seborrheic dermatitis in infants is called cradle cap. In adults, this condition may occur at times of physical stress, travel, or in people who have neurological conditions such as Parkinson's disease.


When fluid accumulates in the tissues that are located just beneath the skin, stasis dermatitis occurs, which usually affects the lower legs. Extra pressure is placed against the skin from underneath and the body's ability to nourish the skin is hindered by the extra fluid. This fluid buildup is usually caused by varicose veins and other chronic conditions.


Involving the skin around the mouth or nose, perioral dermatitis can be a variety of the disorder rosacea, seborrheic dermatitis or adult acne. Moisturizers, topical corticosteroids, makeup and some dental products that contain fluoride may play a role, but the exact cause of perioral dermatitis is still not known.



Other than scarring and changes in skin color, some of the complications that dermatitis may end up causing include:


Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the tissues under the skin, which causes red streaks on the skin. Cellulitis may become a life-threatening condition in case it occurs in someone whose immune system is compromised. In case someone thinks that he/she has cellulitis, a doctor should be contacted. This condition causes the skin to become red, tender, swollen, warm to the touch and intensely inflamed.


Infection may occur in the open sores and fissures that accompany dermatitis. The staphylococci bacteria cause a mild form of infection known as impetigo. People are predisposed to this infection in case they have atopic dermatitis.


Based on the cause of dermatitis its treatment may vary:


The goal of treating this type of dermatitis is to make the person stop scratching and avoid further aggravating their skin. The doctor may cover the affected area to keep the patient from scratching it. To soothe the skin, the doctor may also use hydrocortisone and similar lotions and creams or wet compresses. Some people may also find relief with the use of anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants. Counseling may also help people learn how their emotions and behaviors can prevent or fuel scratching and itching.

Perioral dermatitis:

Oral antibiotic tetracycline is used to treat this condition; in order to prevent a recurrence, the patient should continue using it for several months. To reduce the signs and symptoms of this condition, the patient may be prescribed a very mild corticosteroid cream in the initial phase of his/her treatment. However, people should be careful not to use stronger corticosteroids because when the medication is stopped, the condition may return temporarily and even worsen. The occasional use of over-the-counter antihistamines can reduce the itching caused by all the types of dermatitis.

Contact dermatitis:

Discovering the cause of the rash and then avoiding it is what treatment for contact dermatitis involves. In some cases, the redness and itching may be relieved with the use of creams that contain hydrocortisone or other stronger steroidal creams with or without wet dressings. This condition may take two to four weeks to resolve completely.

Atopic dermatitis:

In order to ease the signs and symptoms of atopic dermatitis, treatment will involve applying hydrocortisone-containing lotions. If someone’s skin cracks open, in order to contract the skin, prevent infection and reduce secretions, he/she may be prescribed wet dressings with mildly astringent properties. The doctor may also suggest antihistamines in case the patient’s itching is severe. In order to help prevent recurrences, the patient may undergo light therapy in which the skin is exposed to controlled amounts of natural or artificial light.

Seborrheic dermatitis:

In most cases, the first line of treatment is medicated shampoos. Salicylic acid, tar, ketoconazole or pyrithione zinc is the active ingredient in the shampoos that are commonly used. In case someone develops a secondary infection, they may need treatment for that condition too. Nonscalp seborrheic dermatitis is relieved by hydrocortisone creams and lotions.

Stasis dermatitis:

This condition is treated by correcting the condition that causes fluid to accumulate in the legs or ankles for extended periods. This condition can be corrected by having varicose vein surgery or wearing elastic support hose. Additionally, to soften the thickened yet fragile skin and control infection, the patient can use wet dressings.



Seborrheic dermatitis and atopic dermatitis can be treated with immunomodulators, which are a class of non-steroidal medications. These medications have anti-inflammatory and mild antifungal properties, and they affect the immune system. Some examples are pimecrolimus and tacrolimus.


The FDA has concerns about the effect of prolonged use of these medications on the immune system. Because of this, the medications mentioned above are recommended to be used only when the patient can’t tolerate other treatments or if other treatments have failed. 


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