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Dermatitis 2017-06-07T15:43:41+00:00
doctor holding blank chalk board

Dermatitis

Dermatitis is very common, affecting approximately one in five people.

The term dermatitis is quite broad and refers to an irritation of the skin, sometimes through an allergic reaction or through an internal or external factor. Dermatitis is very common, affecting approximately one in five people. It can occur at any stage in life and randomly among the population. The terms dermatitis and eczema are often used interchangeably.

Dermatitis can come on quite quickly. Acute dermatitis refers to a red rash that appears and evolves quickly. It may be blistered or swollen. It can also be a longer term condition which people may tend to ignore until the symptoms become problematic. Chronic dermatitis refers to a condition that is longstanding. The area may be red or darker, dry feeling or thicker. Some types of dermatitis may be brought on or worsened by stress or anxiety.

Types of Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis: Atopic dermatitis is often inherited and prevalent in families with a history of dermatitis or of asthma. As such it is diagnosed most often in children. Atopic dermatitis may present as skin that is itchy and raw from itching; small, raised bumps that may leak fluid; or red, cracked or scaly skin. This type of dermatitis often appears in folds of skin such as in the folds of the elbows or behind the knees.

Irritant contact dermatitis:Irritant contact dermatitis is triggered most often through soaps, detergents and chemicals but can also be brought on by excessive handling of water, exposure to cold or by friction.

Allergic contact dermatitis: Allergic contact dermatitis is triggered by contact with an allergen such as perfume, nickel or rubber, or plant life including poison ivy or poison oak. Signs of allergic contact dermatitis may include a red rash or bumps, blistering, itching or swelling. Patch testing is often done to determine the cause of allergic contact dermatitis.

Stasis dermatitis: Stasis dermatitis most often affects the elderly and is generally found on the lower legs. This type of dermatitis is the result of issues with varicose veins and swelling.

Seborrheic dermatitis: Seborrheic dermatitis can present in a variety of ways and is most commonly presents as dandruff on the scalp or eyebrows. This type of dermatitis can often be seasonal and is exacerbated by stress.

There are many other types of dermatitis. A physician is best equipped to investigate, diagnose and prescribe treatment based on each specific type.

Additional Information on Dermatitis
Appearance: The specific appearance of dermatitis varies greatly depending on its location and type. In general, areas affected by dermatitis do not look like the rest of the adjacent tissue. The area may be red, paler or darker; it may be dry or blistered. Any area of skin that changes quickly or that remains changed for any length of time and where the cause is unknown, is worth investigating with a physician.

Location: Dermatitis can occur anywhere on the body from the top of the scalp, into the ears and right down to the toes.

Causes: The causes of dermatitis are wide-ranging and influenced by genetics and environment.

Treatment: Treatment for dermatitis is focused on reducing skin inflammation, proper hydration and control of itch-scratch cycle:

Moisturizer: An emollient that is perfume free and gentle may be all that is needed to moisturize and keep the affected area soft. Your physician can recommend options that may work best for you.

Topical steroids: A topical steroid cream may be prescribed. Typically, your doctor will recommend this will be applied to the affected areas once or twice a day for a period of time during a flare-up and sometimes with a recommendation to repeat as required for flare-ups.

Antibiotics: If an infection is causing or irritating the dermatitis, your doctor may prescribe a short course of antibiotics to treat the underlying condition.

Antihistamines: Antihistamines may also be recommended. Antihistamines control the bouts of itch and reduce scratch-itch cycles.

Other prescription medications and phototherapy: For severe or resistant forms of dermatitis phototherapy or other prescription medications may be recommended. Your physician will discuss with you the options and any potential side effects.

What happens after treatment
Some types of dermatitis are single-case incidents, particular once a trigger has been identified and removed. Other forms, or those caused by allergens that cannot be fully eliminated, may be recurring.

Depending on the type of dermatitis and the treatment selected, your doctor may suggest several steps you can take at home to avoid another flare up. Besides avoiding any specific allergens or triggers, you can:

Reduce the frequency of bathing and showering. Use warm rather than hot water and avoid excessive exposure. Use a mild soap and shampoo.

Wear soft clothing that won’t rub or irritate skin. Protect your skin from cold and wind by covering up.
When you notice your skin getting dry or irritated, moisturize the area well to avoid further irritation, or use a prescribed cream if it has been recommended. If you are unable to get the area under control, your physician may be able to offer additional advice or treatment.

Who is at Risk

Dermatitis can affect anyone at any age. Though there are some inherited predispositions for certain kinds of dermatitis, they can occur at any stage of life and as a reaction to external sources sometimes previously tolerated.

Can it be prevented?

While not all types of dermatitis can be avoided, maintaining healthy skin can help eliminate some types and can reduce the severity or frequency of flare ups.

  • Take short baths and showers
  • Use warm, rather than hot water
  • Moisturize skin
  • Use soaps and lotions that are not perfumed and free of allergens