Published February 10, 2012
Dermatitis is a general term used to describe a broad range of skin ailments. Types of dermatitis vary in symptoms and treatments, but most are characterized by an inflammation of the skin and an itchy and red skin rash. The three most common forms of the condition are contact dermatitis, nummular dermatitis and atopic dermatitis, more commonly known as eczema. While irritating, these conditions are usually not life threatening or contagious. Nevertheless, if you suspect that you’ve contracted any form of dermatitis, you should seek medical attention immediately.
Different factors can cause different forms of dermatitis. For example, contact dermatitis is contracted through direct contact with any number of irritants or allergens. Some of the more common allergens include poison ivy and poison oak, while laundry soap, detergents and other cleaning products are among the top irritants. Similarly, nummular dermatitis is generally caused by living in dry conditions or taking frequent hot showers. Eczema, on the other hand, is typically inherited genetically and is often associated with stress and allergies.
Although specific methods of prevention vary for various types of dermatitis, the most effective approach is to avoid irritants, such as those described above, and take care of your skin. Other factors may affect your skin and contribute to dermatitis, including sweating, stress, contact with harsh fabrics and excess stress. Limiting the number and duration of your showers will also help to keep skin healthy and strong. In addition, using moisturizers and mild soaps can help ward off most forms of dermatitis. Those with sensitive skin should be extra careful when traveling to a warm climate, as rapid changes in temperature can often cause dermatitis to flare up.
Each form of dermatitis has its own set of signs and symptoms, but most exhibit a swollen, itchy and red rash. You skin may also develop small lesions or fluid-filled blisters around the rash. It should be noted that touching this rash will not cause it to spread to other areas of the body or other people. This rash is usually harmless, but if you skin becomes painful or appears to be infected, you should see a doctor immediately.
There are numerous strategies available to treat dermatitis in all its forms. Applying corticosteroid creams and wet compresses directly to the skin can help reduce swelling and irritation. Avoiding common irritants is also crucial to preventing symptoms from worsening. If stress is a contributing factor to your dermatitis, you may need to receive counseling or begin a course of anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication. Sufferers of atopic dermatitis might also try light therapy – which involves exposing the skin to controlled amounts of natural light – to help prevent the condition from recurring.