Dermatitis means an inflammation of the skin. It is commonly manifested as redness, swelling, itching. It is different from eczema as in all eczemas are types of dermatitis of some sort but all types of dermatitis are not eczemas.
There are various classifications of dermatitis. Here are the common ones:
Irritant contact dermatitis: Caused due to some irritant chemicals for example detergents, soaps, perfumes, etc. ICD is usually seen on the hands first as an inflammation in the skin with scaling. The first step to treating this condition is stopping the usage of agents causing it.
Allergic dermatitis: When the skin infection is due to an allergy or allergic reaction during which the body’s antibodies react with the allergens, it is called allergic dermatitis. The reaction is delayed and does not take place the first time your skin touches something it is allergic to. But your skin becomes sensitive to it and the next time it comes in contact with the allergen, the skin shows a reaction. Usually the immune system is also involved in this kind of dermatitis.
Atopic dermatitis: It is commonly seen in young children characterised by dry skin, itching and may even lead to eczema patches. Approximately 50% of patients develop this condition by the first year of life and additional 30% develop it within 1-5 years. Initially, it was thought that these children would outgrow this eczema by adolescence; however due to changes in our lifestyle, atopic dermatitis is seen in adults as well. Usually, the cheeks and lips are affected first in atopic dermatitis.
Seborrheic dermatitis: It is a more severe form of the common dandruff – greasy, scaly lesions seen over the scalp as well as on the chest and back and other hair bearing areas. It is more prevalent among males but usually occurs in infants within the first three months of life. Mostly affects the oily areas white to yellowish scales with or without reddened skin.
Nummular dermatitis: This results in round, coin-shaped patches on the skin (particularly where the skin is dry) but can be anywhere on the body. The patches are whitish or reddish in colour and may be itchy or crusty. This type usually affects older men but is quite uncommon. It is also not contagious.
Id eruption: It is a dermatitis that develops due to the presence of another intense inflammatory reaction somewhere else in the body e.g. fungal infections.
Pompholyx: It is characterised by deep vesicles and in some cases blisters over the hands and feet, intensely itchy lesions.
Lichen Simplex Chronicus (LSC): This is a dermatitis that happens due some long standing skin condition associated with chronic itching. The skin becomes thick. People who have anxiety disorders are prone to it.
There are multiple causes of dermatitis including:
- Genetic factors
- Family history
- General health conditions
But on a broad basis, we see dermatitis due to some internal skin disorder or external contact irritation or allergic irritation.
Some visible symptoms of dermatitis include:
In severe cases, the patient can also have oozing/blistering/secondary infections.
The treatment depends on the type and cause of dermatitis. Keeping the skin moisturised is usually one of the mainstays of any dermatitis treatment. Along with this, antihistamines and steroids may be prescribed. It is important that the patient adheres to doctor’s medication to keep the condition under control. Follow up and regular check-up are equally important to monitor the dose of the medication from time to time. In case of allergies, the causative factors need to be avoided at all costs. Any other triggers should also be avoided.
Since it affects the skin, dermatitis can lead to possible complications such as low self-esteem or embarrassment. It can also cause psychological distress. Constant scratching of skin can at times lead to an open sore which may spread the condition to other parts of the body. Some of these are due to an allergic reaction where the immune system is also involved. Dermatitis can also get worse in the winter season due to the rough and dry climate so it is vital to take better care of the skin during this time.
Keeping the skin moisturised at all times is the best way to prevent any sort of dermatitis. Using mild soaps, not letting harsh detergents come in contact with the skin is another way to prevent it. Getting any rash or skin allergy checked at the earliest to prevent the infection or condition from spreading or getting worse is also important. Many forms of dermatitis can be chronic conditions which mean that they can only be kept under control with the help of medication once the symptoms start appearing.