What causes dermatitis? 7 possible conditions

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What is Dermatitis?

Dermatitis is a condition that causes inflammation of the skin. The condition is not contagious and can have many causes. Dermatitis is not considered dangerous, but it can be uncomfortable. Certain types of dermatitis are chronic—for example, atopic dermatitis. But treatments may help.

Types of Dermatitis

There are several types of dermatitis. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the two most common types are contact dermatitis and atopic dermatitis.

Contact dermatitis develops when the skin comes in direct contact with an allergen. This causes an allergic reaction. Common irritants include poison oak, poison ivy, detergent, perfume, cosmetics, and nickel.

Atopic dermatitis is also called eczema. It can be chronic and may first start in infancy. It tends to run in families with a history of allergies (Cleveland Clinic).

Some additional forms of dermatitis are dyshidrotic dermatitis and seborrheic dermatitis. Dyshidrotic dermatitis is found only on the feet and hands. Seborrheic dermatitis is usually found on the scalp and face and is related to oily skin (American Academy of Dermatology).

What Causes Dermatitis?

The cause of dermatitis varies depending on the type.

Contact dermatitis is caused by an allergic reaction. Why some individuals develop certain allergies is not known.

The cause of atopic dermatitis is not clear, but it does appear to have a genetic factor. People with atopic dermatitis often have a family history of allergies or asthma. The main cause of seborrheic dermatitis is oily skin and hair. This type of dermatitis also appears to run in families.    

What Are the Risk Factors For Dermatitis?

Having a family history of dermatitis appears to increase a person’s risk of dermatitis. Having a family history of asthma or hay fever also increases the risk of atopic dermatitis. People who work with or near strong chemical substances, which may irritate the skin, are also at an increased risk of developing dermatitis.

What Are the Symptoms of Dermatitis?

Symptoms of dermatitis range from mild to severe. Not all people with dermatitis experience all symptoms. Symptoms may also depend on what type of dermatitis is present and where it is on the body. In general, symptoms of dermatitis may include a red rash, blisters, and dry, cracked skin. Itchy skin is also common and can become severe. The skin may become painful, with stinging or burning.

How Is Dermatitis Diagnosed?

A diagnosis is made after a physical exam and a discussion of the patient’s medical history. A dermatologist can often diagnose dermatitis just by looking at the skin. In some cases, a skin patch test is recommended. In a skin patch, a doctor puts small amounts of different substances on the skin. This helps determine what is causing the reaction.

How Is Dermatitis Treated?

Treatments for dermatitis depend on the severity of symptoms and the cause. Medication is often the main treatment. Topical creams containing hydrocortisone can reduce inflammation, redness, and itching.

Antihistamines are sometimes recommended in order to reduce allergic reactions, which can cause dermatitis. Antibiotics are usually given only if an infection has developed. Infections can occur when the skin is broken due to intense scratching.

Home care for dermatitis may include applying cool, wet cloths to the skin. This can reduce itching and discomfort. Adding baking soda to a cool bath may also help reduce symptoms. Covering the skin with a dressing or bandage prevents scratching or infection if the skin is broken. 

Dermatitis is sometimes associated with an increase in stress. Alternative therapies may help reduce stress. These include acupuncture, massage, and medications.

Other alternative therapies, such as herbs and dietary supplements, may be used to treat dermatitis. Some studies indicate that children under the age of 13 may reduce eczema by taking probiotics (Mayo Clinic).

What Is the Outlook For Dermatitis?

Dermatitis is not considered a serious medical condition. The frequency and severity of symptoms are usually reduced with treatment. It is possible to learn methods that prevent or control flare-ups.

How Is Dermatitis Prevented?

Dermatitis often runs in families, so it is not always preventable. But it is possible to prevent symptom flare-ups.

People with allergies should avoid skin contact with allergens. Frequently moisturizing the skin can also help.

Avoid excess drying of the skin by reducing bath time to 15 minutes or less, and use warm water instead of hot water. Use mild soaps and detergents, which are less likely to irritate the skin.

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See a list of possible causes in order from the most common to the least.

1

Allergies Overview

An allergy is the immune system's response to a foreign substance (allergen) that is not typically harmful to a person's body. This attack response may involve inflammation, sneezing, and a host of other symptoms.

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2

Kwashiorkor

Kwashiorkor is a form of malnutrition caused by protein deficiency. It is the most common nutritional disorder in developing countries. Common symptoms are change in skin tone, diarrhea, flaky rash, and more.

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3

Thrombophlebitis

Thrombophlebitis is an inflammation of a vein, usually in the leg, that can cause swelling or redness. If left untreated, it can lead to a pulmonary embolism.

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4

Candida Fungus Skin Infection

Candida is a type of fungus that can cause an infection in your skin. In normal conditions, your skin may host small amounts of this fungus, but problems arise when it begins to multiply and creates an overgrowth...

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5

Cellulitis

Cellulitis is a common, often painful skin infection that first appears as a red, swollen area that feels hot and tender to the touch. If left untreated, it can become life-threatening.

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6

The War of Cells: Graft vs. Host Disease

Graft vs. Host Disease is a common reaction that develops after an allogeneic bone marrow transplant. It usually goes away after the transplant has become established. It causes symptoms throughout the body's systems.

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7

Dermatomyositis

Dermatomyositis is a rare inflammatory disease that can occur when muscles become inflamed. The most apparent symptom is a rash on the face, nails, elbows, or chest that is red or violet.

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This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose.
Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.
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