What is dermatitis?
Dermatitis is a general term that describes skin inflammation. It can have many causes and occurs in many forms. Dermatitis is characterized by an itchy rash, swollen and reddened skin.  The affected area of the body may blister, ooze, or may develop a crust. it is a common condition that isn’t contagious and usually not life-threatening. Even so, this skin condition can be very frustrating and uncomfortable.
The common symptoms of dermatitis according to their type are the following: 
- A red rash that is limited to the area exposed to an irritant (contact)
- Itchy, circular patches of scaly, weeping or encrusted skin (nummular)
- Greasy, yellowish scales on the eyebrows, nose, scalp and behind the ears (seborrhoeic)
- Scaling of the ulcerated skin in the lower legs and around the ankles (stasis)
- Extreme, persistent itchiness (atopic-dermatitis or eczema).
Scratching the itchy rash associated with dermatitis can result to open sores which can become infected. If these skin infections spread, this can rarely become life-threatening. Some rashes look like an allergic reaction, but they aren’t because the immune system is not involved. If you have touched something which has removed the surface oils protecting your skin, dermatitis can occur. The longer the irritant stays in contact with your skin, the worse the reaction can be.
Most types can be diagnosed through observation of the irritation and its location on the body. Sometimes, your doctor will perform a scrape test, in order to come up with a diagnosis. To identify causes of contact dermatitis, patch tests can be done by applying suspected allergens to the skin. If your skin reacts to a certain allergens, it may indicate what is causing the dermatitis. It comes in many forms, so symptoms experienced by affected persons and its management may vary from case to case.
What causes dermatitis?
There are several different forms of dermatitis, but all are caused by irritants or allergens that may trigger skin reaction. The condition is usually characterized by red, itchy skin that can become weepy and blistered. But the cause and its symptoms depends on the type of dermatitis a person is diagnosed with. The following are different types of dermatitis together with their causes:
Contact dermatitis: This skin reaction happens when the skin makes contact with an irritant or allergen. An irritant can cause physical damage to the skin, while an allergen triggers the body’s immune system to react. Common known causes of irritant are soaps, detergents, disinfectants, metals, perfumes, cosmetics and plants. Substances that can trigger an allergic contact dermatitis include rubber, strong adhesives, dyes, resins, and some topical medicines.
Atopic-dermatitis: It is also known as eczema. This form occurs when the body becomes hypersensitive to certain allergens, foods or environmental factors. This condition can also be inherited.
Neurodermatitis: This condition is caused by irritation of nerve endings, leading to an intensely itchy sensation and an overwhelming urge to scratch. This condition is caused by nerve endings underneath the skin that have become irritated,
Statis: This condition is caused by interruption of venous blood flow from the legs back to the heart, resulting in blood pooling in the lower limbs. The blood and fluid then leak from the veins into the tissues of the skin.
Seborrheic: The cause of this condition is unknown but it may be related to a yeast called Malassezia.
Perioral: The condition is associated with the use of moisturizers, topical steroids and cosmetics.
Dermatitis herpetiformis: This condition is caused by an allergy to the substance called gluten which is found in wheat and other grains.
Generalized exfoliative: This condition affects the entire skin surface and is caused by certain drugs such as penicillin and sulphonamides.
What is the dermatitis treatment?
A combination of self-help strategies and medications can help treat this disease. The treatment varies depending on the cause and symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe topical antibiotics, creams or lotions, or may refer you to a qualified dermatologist to manage the disease. However, simple lifestyle modifications and home management are effective in treating the disease and preventing flare up of symptoms.
To treat dermatitis:
Use over-the-counter anti-inflammation and anti-itch products: Use a hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion to relieve inflammation and itching.
Apply cool, wet compresses: You can cover the affected area with cool, wet bandages and dressings to relieve itchiness and protect the skin whenever you scratch. If itching is severe, wrap an ice in a clean towel and apply it on the affected area.
Take a warm bath: Hot water can strip your skin of its natural oil and can cause dryness. Also, pat dry your skin after bathing as rubbing can irritate the affected area.
Wear cotton clothing: Choose a smooth-textured clothing to avoid irritating the affected area.
Choose a mild laundry detergent: Harsh ingredients can flare up symptoms. Because your clothes, towels and sheets touch your skin, choose mild laundry products and avoid fabric softeners.
Use the right serums and moisturizers: LYCD, Natto, Green Tea and B3 Serums have all had sensational results. It may be a process of trying each serum to see which one is the most effective. Mild moisturizers are effective in preventing dryness. This includes O2 with its calming ingredients that will help calm, and alleviate the irritation causes.
Avoid triggers: You will probably know what your specific triggers are if you already experience a skin reaction when you came in contact with an allergen or irritant.
Use stress management techniques: Stressors can flare up some types of dermatitis. Take time to relax and enjoy life.
- 1. Johansen, D., et al (2011). Contact Dermatitis 5th Edition, page 430.
- 2. Webmd.com. Types of Eczema. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/eczema/types-of-eczema
- 3. Cavendish, M. (2008). Diseases and Disorders, Volume 1, page 254-55.
- 4. Pigmentation