Skin Information Network

What is Dermatitis?

Dermatitis is a general term that refers to any rash or inflammation in the skin that is not caused by an infection. There are many different types of dermatitis, affecting various parts of the skin. Although dermatitis is not contagious or life-threatening in any way, it can be extremely irritating and inconvenient. Generally, in dermatitis, some or all of these symptoms can be seen:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Itching
  • Cuts on the skin

What are the common types of dermatitis?

Contact Dermatitis

One of the most common causes of dermatitis, contact dermatitis is divided into two broad types: Irritant Contact Dermatitis, and Allergic Contact Dermatitis. Irritant Contact dermatitis occurs when prolonged exposure to irritants such as detergents or dirt causes the rash. It is commonly a work-related problem. For example, nurses who need to wash their hands commonly have this problem, in this case, water being the irritant. Contact with allergens can cause more acute reactions in the skin. Poison ivy is a common cause.

Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is also an extremely common condition for infants and children. It is a chronic condition that causes dry skin and rashes to form on the inside of the knees, elbows, and on the face in children. Rashes can form elsewhere too, but are most common in these areas. There is a strong genetic component to this disease, and a family history of atopic dermatitis, asthma, or hayfever can make one predisposed towards it. In many, but not all cases, atopic dermatitis will be "outgrown" and disappear in adulthood. Some people will continue to have the symptoms, but will usually have milder symptoms in their adult years.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

This is common dermatitis of the scalp that is often confused with dandruff. Both dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis causes flakes of dead skin to shed from the scalp (this happens, normally, but with these conditions the dead skin clumps into larger pieces making them visible). With seborrheic dermatitis, the central facial area is often affected as well as the scalp. This condition is most common in men from the age of 30-60. A variant called cradle cap also occurs in infants, but tends to be short-lived.

Perioral Dermatitis

Perioral dermatitis is a skin condition in which red rashes form around the mouth and chin area which resembles acne, and is sometimes mistaken for it. Unlike acne, however, it is more common in adults. Unlike acne, blackheads and whiteheads will not appear and the red bumps are restricted to the mouth and chin area, and never go beyond certain borders.

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