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Understanding Your Dermatitis and How to Treat It

Dermatitis encompasses a number of causes and symptoms related to irritated skin. As such, it’s often easy to point out a case of dermatitis, but difficult to narrow down its origin. While this common skin condition is rarely dangerous and not contagious, it is often uncomfortable and embarrassing for some. And, if left unchecked, dermatitis can also lead to infection.

Therefore, if you suffer from irritated skin, you should seek ways to treat it and prevent future flare-ups. In order to do either of these things, you must gain a better understanding of your dermatitis. Knowing the potential causes or triggers of your dermatitis can help you achieve healthier, less irritable skin.

Different Types of Dermatitis

Our skin is both the first line of defense against pathogens as well as the red flag that indicates an internal problem. Recognizing where and how your skin flares up can cue you into which type of dermatitis you have. Let’s go over the four main types of dermatitis and describe their causal and symptomatic differences.

Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema)

The most common form of skin irritation, atopic dermatitis, also goes by the name eczema. Doctors are still not entirely sure what causes eczema, but data suggests that this type of dermatitis is hereditary, passed down through the genes. In most cases, eczema is a chronic condition, beginning in childhood and flaring up now and again throughout one’s lifetime. Eczema often shows up as dry, itchy patches on elbows, near the neck, and behind the knees, though these rashes are not limited to those locations.

Allergic/Contact Dermatitis

Contact or allergic dermatitis occurs when the skin is irritated by direct contact with a specific material. The substance may be benign on its own, such as fabric or moisturizer, but trigger an allergic response in the body. Or, the material may be inherently irritating, like battery acid or bleach. Both types of contact dermatitis often show up as red, itchy, stinging, sometimes blistering rashes wherever the skin made contact with the irritating substance.

Dyshidrotic Dermatitis

Unlike other types of dermatitis, dyshidrotic dermatitis only occurs on or near the palms of hands and soles of feet. These outbreaks look more like collections of small blisters than a standard rash. Doctors still aren’t sure what causes dyshidrotic dermatitis, but believe it is an allergic response and/or related to stress.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

This type of dermatitis has to do with overactive sebaceous (or oil-producing) glands. The majority of these glands are on our scalps, helping to lubricate hair follicles. If our bodies produce too much oil, it can irritate the skin. Skin cells may flake off in the form of dandruff, and some may even lose hair in affected areas. Doctors are still trying to find the exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis.

The four types of dermatitis outlined above don’t cover all of them. Some others include nummular dermatitis, stasis dermatitis, and perioral dermatitis.

Treating Your Dermatitis

While dermatologists have yet to find a cure for all types of dermatitis, there are a number of ways to alleviate dermatitis symptoms. Depending on the type of dermatitis you have, different treatments may work better than others. That said, generally speaking, the most common and effective treatment options include:

  • Topical corticosteroids
  • Oral corticosteroids
  • Calcineurin inhibitor ointments
  • Phototherapy
  • Antibiotics (to fight potential infection)
  • Antihistamines
  • Immunosuppressants

Outside of these treatments, you can also prevent and reduce dermatitis flare ups in a number of ways. The first step is knowing what factors irritate your skin. For instance, you may want to avoid wearing certain types of fabric or tight-fitting clothing. When taking a shower or bath, lower the temperature, as hot water can bother the skin. Do not pick at or scratch existing rashes, as this can lead to bleeding and infection. Keep your skin hydrated with a non-irritating moisturizer.

No one likes dealing with itchy, flaky skin. The good news is that you can do something about it. Westside Dermatology can give you more information on the various kinds of dermatitis and ways to treat your irritated skin. Contact us to learn more about our services and providers.

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