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Skin Dermatitis, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Updated on August 15, 2010

Skin dermatitis is often used to refer to several skin conditions that can cause redness, irritation and inflammation. Contrary to popular belief, the condition is not restricted to eczema. Skin dermatitis may result in crusty and dry skin –especially on the hands – that does not respond well to typical over the counter treatment for dry, itchy and painful skin. 

Causes of Dermatitis

Physicians know that some types of dermatitis are the result of heredity or allergies. More often than not, however, no known cause can be found. This does little to ease the minds of sufferers, but successful medical treatment is available, depending on the variety of skin dermatitis that you suffer from. 

Sebhorrheic Dermatitis 

Sebhorrheic Dermatitis is more frequently referred to as “cradle cap” and is a common occurance on the scalp of infants, but may also appear as a crusty form of diaper rash. Like many other varieties of dry skin condition, scientists are unclear as to the cause of seborrhea dermatitis but some believe a genetic predisposition toward oily skin is to blame. 

If left untreated, seborrhea dermatitis will clear up on its own, usually over the course of a year. Adults that suffer from the condiition may use medicated shampoos to control the condition. Dandruff shampoos, such as Head and Shoulders, have proven effective at fighting seborrhea dermatitis. T-Gel is also a solution for some sufferers. These treatments should not be used on infants due to their potency. Infants should be seen by a physician who can prescribed a gentle corticosteroid cream. Some individuals also use gentle shampooing and scrubbing to remove the crusty deposits from the infant’s head and increase his or her comfort level until a visit with a pediatrician is possible.

Atopic Dermatitis

Commonly known as “eczema,” Atopic dermatitis can afflict any age group but appears to be most common in children. Eczema can occur anywhere on the body, including the face, hands, feet, arms and legs. 

Although no direct cause has been identified that can accurately pinpoint why some individuals develop eczema and others do not, doctors do know that a previous family history of eczema can contribute to an individual developing the condition. Some physicians have also speculated that smoking while pregnant can dramatically increase the eczema risk for a child already predisposed to suffer from the condition. 

Eczema appears differently in different individuals, but it often characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Redness
  • Hardening of the skin in afflicted areas
  • Crusty, dry areas
  • Oozing blisters 
  • Mild to intense itching 

Treatment for Eczema

Individuals who suffer from eczema are often instructed not to bathe too frequently, as bathing robs the skin of its moisture and exacerbates the condition. Oral steroids can be prescribed by a physician to help reduce the discomfort sufferers experience and prevent inflammation. Keeping the skin hydrated in a crucial factor in battling eczema. Oils, creams and other skin hydration products can help ease the condition. In severe cases, medicated lotion can be obtained via prescription and applied to affected areas several times daily.

Exfoliative Dermatitis

Exfoliative dermatitis occurs across the entire body causing extreme discomfort, itching and, occasionally, pain. Exfoliative dermatitis isn’t heredity. Rather, this form of dermatitis is often the body’s allergic reaction to a medication or other substance it has trouble processing.

Exfoliative dermatitis can be a life-threatening condition if not treated propertly. If you suspect you may have developed this condition, contact your physician immediately and stop taking any new drugs that preceded the development of your dry and itchy skin. Hospitalization is sometimes necessary for severe cases of exfoliative dermatitis.

Treating Your Skin Well

The smartest thing you can do for your skin is to keep it well hydrated. This can stave off the development of some skin conditions and help you feel better. Not only do creams and lotions contribute to skin hydration, but drinking 10 eight ounce glasses of water each day prevent dryness and help stave off skin dermatitis. 


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