Types of Dermatitis

There are many types of dermatitis such as atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, stasis dermatitis, dyshidrotic dermatitis, and nummular dermatitis. Although symptoms are similar, each type has characteristic features. Atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis and seborrheic dermatitis are considered common in the general population, and contact dermatitis is associated with occupational skin disease.

What is atopic dermatitis?

Atopic dermatitis (often called eczema) is a chronic condition, recurring many times during a person’s life. Some people with atopic dermatitis have a personal and family history of allergies (such as hay fever or asthma). Atopic dermatitis may also be related to a person’s immune response to substances that are normally considered harmless. A diagnosis of atopic dermatitis is based on medical history, symptoms, and may also include atopy patch testing.

What is seborrheic dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis is usually associated with red and flaking patches of skin. It is often found on the scalp ( dandruff ), as well as the nose, eyebrows, ears, and chest where hair follicles occur. Seborrheic dermatitis may be associated with an unusual immune reaction to a fungal infection. It can occur in healthy infants, children and adults, as well as patients with compromised immune systems. Infections, dry weather, oily skin, stress and other factors can make seborrheic dermatitis worse.

Can I tell what type of dermatitis I have?

No. Dermatitis symptoms such as redness, itching, warmth, swelling, scaling, cracking or pain are common and not specific. Your doctor will probably use your symptoms, medical and occupational history, and specific testing to determine what type of dermatitis you have.

How can I help my doctor diagnose my skin condition?

Keep a “diary” of when your symptoms appear, get worse or improve. It also helps to write down where your symptoms occur on your body, and how long they last. If you notice that your skin gets worse after certain activities, record the reaction and the activity in as much detail as possible.

Workers in some occupations are more likely to develop allergic contact dermatitis, so it’s important to describe your work to your doctor. If you handle chemicals during the day, make a list of these or find their Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS).

How is dermatitis treated?

Successful treatment of dermatitis symptoms depends on getting an accurate diagnosis from your physician. Depending on the type of dermatitis and the severity of skin reactions, a physician may advise specific allergen avoidance, and/or prescribe corticosteroids, antifungal agents, antihistamines, barrier creams, and moisturizers for your skin, shampoos with salicylic acid, selenium, zinc, or coal tar, and oral medications. These treatments are intended to treat your symptoms and improve your skin’s condition.

Because there is often no cure for dermatitis, your physician should discuss ways to avoid allergen and/or irritant contact, and how to take better care of your skin. In addition, reducing stress can improve your immune system response and help restore your skin’s normal integrity [Choi et al, 2005].

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