Dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin. The word "dermatitis" is used to describe a number of different skin rashes that are caused by infections, allergies, and irritating substances. There are two types of dermatitis, contact and atopic dermatitis
Contact dermatitis occurs when the skin comes in contact with a substance that causes an allergic reaction (allergic contact dermatitis) or when there is an injury to the skin's surface (irritant contact dermatitis).
Atopic dermatitis appears with a condition that is caused by a hereditary tendency towards reacting to certain allergens
The rashes range from mild to severe and can cause the following skin conditions, depending on their cause:
• Painful ulcers
For contact dermatitis, the skin can become allergic after just one exposure or over a course of many exposures. Contact dermatitis has two subtypes, allergic contact dermatitis and irritant contact dermatitis.
Symptoms for allergic contact dermatitis are:
• Skin reddening
• Blisters that ooze (Fluid from blisters is not contagious. It will not spread the skin rash to other parts of the body or to other people.)
• Itching which can become intense
• Swelling in eyes, face, and genital areas (severe cases)
Irritant contact dermatitis is caused by detergents, soaps, waxes and other chemicals. The products wear down the protective layer of the skin surface and lead to irritant contact dermatitis. It is a condition common with people who work strong chemicals in the fields such as restaurants, maintenance, custodial and chemical workers.
Symptoms for irritant contact dermatitis are:
• Mild swelling
• Stiff, tight-feeling skin
• Dry, cracking skin
• Painful ulcers
Atopic dermatitis is passed from parents to their children. It usually occurs first during infancy and not ameliorating until adulthood. Most infants with atopic dermatitis clear up by the age of two, though atopic dermatitis episodes may happen throughout life.
Atopic dermatitis symptoms in infants are
• Red, very itchy dry patches of skin
• Rash on the cheeks that often begins at 2 to 6 months of age
• Rash oozes when scratched. Symptoms can become worse if the child scratches the rash.
In early adolescents and adulthood the symptoms will appear as:
• Rash on creases of hands, elbows, wrists, and knees, and sometimes on the feet, ankles, and neck
• Dry, scaly, brownish-gray skin rash
• Thickened skin with markings
• Skin rash may bleed and crust after scratching
Atopic dermatitis may be aggravated by harsh substances such as tight clothing that rubs, and irritating soaps, cosmetics and shampoos.
Irritant contact dermatitis and atopic dermatitis are diagnosed by a general practitioner or a dermatologist (skin doctor). If an allergy is suspected the medical practitioner may perform a patch test or tests. A patch test involves applying small portions of suspected chemicals or allergens to the skin to see if a rash response occurs.
Irritant dermatitis is not diagnosed by any tests. A healthcare provider will take a history of behaviors to determine if any irritating substances in the patient’s environment are commonly use and if a rash history coincides with the use.
Treatment depends on the symptoms and cause of the dermatitis. The most common treatments are:
lotion for dry skin
cortisone creams or oral cortisones depending on the severity
antihistamines to relieve itching
oatmeal baths to relieve itching
Atopic dermatitis is a hereditary condition that cannot be cured. Treatment for atopic dermatitis is targeted at reducing itching and dry skin.
Allergic contact dermatitis can be prevented by avoiding the substances that cause the rash or wearing protective clothing if the substance cannot be avoided. Identify and recognize reactive plants such as poison oak or ivy, in order to avoid them. Another treatment is to wash the area that has come in contact with the causative substance.
Irritant contact dermatitis can be avoided by wearing rubber gloves for all ‘wet’ work and using petroleum jelly to protect uncovered skin. Petroleum jelly can be reapplied two to three times per day and especially after hand washing.
Atopic dermatitis is a chronic condition for which there is no cure. There are however, methods for reducing the symptoms of itching and dry skin. Oral medications and lotions can be prescribed, such as antihistamines and corticosteroid creams.
To help children avoid more severe episodes or relieve the symptoms try these behaviors:
avoid long, hot baths
regular room temperature with a humidifier for moist air
cotton clothes are best, avoid silk, wool and man made fabrics (nylon, polyester) that can cause itching and irritation
apply lotion right after a bath while the skin is still wet
use a mild, fragrance free detergent on skin and clothes
lotion a few times per day
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