The term dermatitis includes a number of different types of skin problems, but there's one thing in common about all of them. When you have dermatitis, you will experience inflammation of the skin somewhere on your body. It normally makes the skin red, swollen, itchy and it can cause skin lesions in some people. Dermatitis is neither terminal nor disabling in normal circumstances, but it can certainly make you physically and emotionally uncomfortable.

The goal of this article is to answer the most common questions about different types of dermatitis.

What does dermatitis look like? One description of what dermatitis looks like is skin that has been burned or scalded by hot water. The skin turns red, swells, and may even form blisters with fluid secretion. It's important (but often difficult) to resist the urge to scratch when you have dermatitis, because scratching only makes the skin look worse and aggravates the condition.

What causes dermatitis? Dermatitis has a variety of causes, including allergies and heredity. Pollutants and irritants in your environment – smoke, smog, allergens, cleaning fluids, etc – sometimes cause dermatitis. Physical and emotional stress have been shown to trigger some types of dermatitis too. Causes may certainly be different, naturally, depending on the type of dermatitis you have.

Is dermatitis contagious? Dermatitis is not contagious: one individual cannot transmit it to another.

What are the most common types of dermatitis?

Atopic dermatitis This type features an itchy rash that comes and goes. It is a chronic condition that is better known as eczema. Atopic dermatitis may be at its worst during childhood and grow less severe with maturity. Stress is not considered to be a cause of eczema, but it's generally believed that stress can make it worse. The exact cause is not known. A genetic predisposition to having dry irritable skin combined with a malfunction in the immune system may be contributing factors.

Doctors usually treat this kind of dermatitis with one of several lotions that contain hydrocortisone.

Contact or allergic dermatitis The word “contact” is the key here. Contact or allergic dermatitis occurs when your skin comes in contact with an irritant that causes a rash,

Seborrheic dermatitis When you have this kind of dermatitis, you'll notice a red rash, often on the scalp along with yellowish, oily-looking scales. In infants, this type of dermatitis is known as cradle cap. There are a variety of possible causes when it appears in adults, including Parkinson's disease, oily hair or skin, or physical stress.

Special shampoos containing tar, pyrithione zinc, salicylic acid or ketoconazole as the active ingredient are generally used to treat this type of dermatitis. You may also get relief from hydrocortisone creams and lotions.

Perioral dermatitis This type is believed to be a form of rosacea, seborrheic dermatitis or adult acne. Certain products such as moisturizers, makeup and topical corticosteroids can make this condition worse.

Tetracycline, an antibiotic administered orally, is usually the most effective treatment, although it can take a while before the rash goes away completely. Recurrences are common with perioral dermatitis, so your doctor may suggest staying on the antibiotic for several months to make sure the rash doesn't return.

Neurodermatitis This kind of dermatitis is often associated with dry skin. It is also associated with psoriasis or eczema. This kind of dermatitis typically features an itching sensation in a specific part of the body, especially the neck, wrists, ankles or arms. Hydrocortisone lotions and creams may help soothe your skin, along with wet compresses. In some cases, anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants may be appropriate. The most important thing is to avoid scratching, which just aggravates your skin even further.

Stasis dermatitis Sometimes, fluid will build up under the skin for some reason. When this occurs, stasis dermatitis may result. This tends to happen in the legs more often than other parts of the body. The rash appears because the accumulating fluid blocks the processes which provide nourishment to the skin and keep it healthy. Treatment of stasis dermatitis begins with diagnosing and correcting the cause of the fluid build up. Elastic support hose may help but in certain circumstances, it may become necessary to perform surgery. Wet dressings help because they soften fragile skin and also prevent the risk of infection.

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