April 01, 2019
1 min read

What is dermatitis?

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Dermatitis refers to various inflammations of the skin that occur in both children and adults. Some symptoms of dermatitis may overlap. The inflammation can be atopic, contact or seborrheic in nature but can also include mild conditions such as dandruff.


Understanding atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis, or eczema, usually occurs in children as a scaly, dry rash on the face and typically appears within the first year of life. Atopic dermatitis usually results from an allergic reaction. The rash can appear suddenly, is usually itchy, can ooze fluid and often makes sleeping difficult.

In children older than 2 years, atopic dermatitis can appear in the creases of elbows and knees, on the neck or wrists, or between the buttocks or legs. In these older children, skin may darken, become bumpy or turn leathery.

Atopic dermatitis is rare in adults; however, when it occurs, it may cover a large portion of the body, resulting in nonstop itching and dry, scaly skin.

Atopic dermatitis on the hand. 
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Understanding contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis occurs as a reaction to an allergen or irritant, such as certain soaps, jewelry or plants such as poison ivy and poison oak.

Symptoms of contact dermatitis include itching, rashes, blisters and bumps on an area of the body that was in contact with the allergen or irritant.

The reaction may be delayed in some parts of the body that received contact, may not show up in others and could even travel to other parts of the body if ingested through food, medicine or other means.

Atopic allergy on the arm. 
Adobe Stock Images

Understanding seborrheic dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is most common in people who have skin or hair that is naturally oily and shows up as a swollen, greasy, reddish rash that has a white or yellowish crusty scale on the surface. This form of dermatitis tends to flare up during winter months but can also be caused by stress.


Treatment is similar for all types

In nearly all types of dermatitis, treatment is the same. Mild forms can be treated with moisturizers and creams containing steroids.

People with contact dermatitis should identify which substances are causing an allergic reaction. Lifestyle changes may be recommended for people with dermatitis caused by stress.



Atopic dermatitis. www.aad.org/public/diseases/eczema/atopic-dermatitis.

Dermatitis. www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dermatitis-eczema/symptoms-causes/syc-20352380.

Seborrheic dermatitis. www.aad.org/public/diseases/scaly-skin/seborrheic-dermatitis.

What is eczema? nationaleczema.org/eczema