The term "dermatitis" refers generally to conditions that result in skin irritation. Examples include contact dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, and atopic dermatitis (eczema) (dandruff). Among other symptoms, these disorders result in red rashes, dry skin, and itching. Your normal doctor or a dermatologist can take care of your dermatitis.

For further information on the different kinds of dermatitis, refer to the "Causes and Symptoms" section.


Who does dermatitis affects?

Anyone, regardless of age, can develop dermatitis. Several instances include:


  • Both diaper rash and cradle cap can affect your infant.

  • Eczema (atopic dermatitis) typically starts in childhood, but it can strike anyone at any age.

  • Since contact dermatitis only requires skin-to-substance contact, anyone can develop it.

  • Dermatitis herpetiformis is more likely to affect those with celiac disease.

How common is dermatitis?

Some types of dermatitis are very common while others are less common. Atopic dermatitis affects two percent to three percent of adults and 25% of children. Contact dermatitis happens at some point in 15% to 20% of people.


What’s the difference between dermatitis and psoriasis?

Psoriasis and dermatitis – especially seborrheic dermatitis – can look similar. Both look like patches of red skin with flakes of skin on top of and around the redness. However, in psoriasis, the scales are often thicker and the edges of those scales are well-defined.

Seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis do overlap in a condition called “sebopsoriasis.” That is when you have the symptoms of both.


Discuss your questions with your healthcare provider regarding which type of skin condition you have. You can have more than one skin condition at a time. Treatments for one may not work for the other.


What’s the difference between dermatitis and eczema?

Eczema is a type of dermatitis. It is also known as atopic dermatitis.


What’s the difference between dermatitis and rosacea?

Rosacea can cause red skin that looks like dermatitis. However, rosacea can also cause pimples, and the redness is typically found on your forehead, nose, chin, and cheeks. Have your healthcare provider take a look at your skin to determine if your condition is dermatitis, rosacea, or something else.


Does dermatitis hurt?

Dermatitis can cause pain for some people. The symptoms can be different depending on the type of dermatitis.

Does dermatitis burn?

Some people feel a burning sensation. Others feel itchiness or both itchiness and a burning feeling. The sensations vary from person to person, and from type to type.


Does stress cause dermatitis?

Yes. Stress can cause and/or aggravate some skin conditions including dermatitis. There are mental/emotional signs of stress and physical signs of stress. They include:


Mental/emotional signs:

  • Constant worry, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed.

  • Difficulty concentrating.

  • Irritability, mood swings, or a short temper.

  • Depression.

  • Low self-esteem.

  • Difficulty relaxing or using alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drugs to relax.


Physical signs:

  • Muscle tension and aches and pains.

  • Diarrhea and constipation.

  • Sleeping more, or less.

  • Loss of sex drive.

  • Feeling nauseated or dizzy.


Try these tips to reduce your stress:

  • Take deep breaths. Count to ten.

  • Don’t aim for perfection. Accept that you can’t control everything.

  • Exercise every day.

  • Get plenty of sleep.

  • Limit caffeine and alcohol.

  • Eat healthy meals.

  • Laugh a lot and try to have a positive attitude.

  • Journal.

  • Talk to friends and family, and a therapist.


How is dermatitis diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will take a close look at your skin. They will look for classic signs of dermatitis such as a rash, redness, scales, dryness, and more. They will ask about the symptoms you’re experiencing. Are you itchy? Does your skin feel like it’s burning? Is your skin dry? Have you come into contact with anything that might irritate your skin?


What tests are done to diagnose dermatitis?

Usually, your healthcare provider will be able to diagnose dermatitis based on examining your skin. However, when there is doubt, they may perform the following tests:

  • Blood tests to check for causes of the rash that might be unrelated to dermatitis.

  • A skin biopsy distinguishes one type of dermatitis from another.

  • An allergy skin test.


Is there a cure for dermatitis?

No treatment can claim to eliminate the symptoms of dermatitis 100% of the time. Treatments manage symptoms with varying degrees of success. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best treatments for you.


Should I see a dermatologist?

Yes, if your usual healthcare provider is unable to help with your dermatitis. Dermatologists specialize in skin conditions.


How long does it take to recover?

The length of recovery time depends on the type of dermatitis and the treatment you get. Even with treatment, it can take several weeks or months to improve. Atopic dermatitis can be with you lifelong, but you can reduce the symptoms with treatment.


Can dermatitis damage my skin permanently?

If you scratch your skin too much and too hard, you could leave scars.


What foods can I eat or avoid to reduce my risk of dermatitis?

If you have food allergies, then one of the reasons why you must avoid that food is that it may cause or worsen dermatitis. Up to 25% of people with dermatitis herpetiformis have celiac disease, a gluten sensitivity. Examples of common allergies include peanuts, dairy, eggs, sugar, and alcohol. Pay attention to what you eat. If your dermatitis flares up after you eat a certain food, then you might have an allergy.


Discuss diet changes with your healthcare provider. It may also be helpful to see a dietician. Dieticians can help you create new meal plans.


Will dermatitis cause scars?

Scratching your skin can sometimes lead to infections and scars. Try to get treatment as soon as you notice dermatitis symptoms so that you can avoid this.


What is it like living with dermatitis?

Dermatitis is both common and normal. Many people live with it.

Managing your symptoms is important for living with dermatitis. Do your best to keep your dermatitis “under control.” You can do this by following your healthcare provider’s instructions. Try your at-home remedies and take any prescribed medications.


You may find that there are times when your dermatitis disappears. This is known as a “remission” period. Other times you may have a “flare-up,” which is when your dermatitis gets worse.

Do your best not to scratch your dermatitis as this can lead to infections and scars.


When should I see my healthcare provider?

Don’t wait until you’re so uncomfortable that you can’t sleep before seeing your healthcare provider about your skin. See them as soon as symptoms start so that you can get treatment. See them especially soon if you think there’s an infection, or if you’re in a lot of pain.


What questions should I ask my healthcare provider?

  • What type of dermatitis do I have?

  • How can you tell that it’s that type of dermatitis?

  • If I don’t have dermatitis, what other skin condition might I have?

  • Is there a specific brand of moisturizer that you recommend?

  • Is there a prescription shampoo, cream, or lotion that you can prescribe?

  • How often should I see a dermatologist regarding this condition?

  • What soaps, lotions, makeup, etc. should I avoid?

  • What medications do you recommend?

  • What at-home treatments do you recommend?

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