What Is Dermatitis?
The word “dermatitis” is used in dermatology as a blanket term to describe any type of skin inflammation or skin rash. There are many causes of dermatitis, including bacterial, viral, fungal, autoimmune, allergic, or coming into contact with an offending agent. Anyone of any age and skin type can develop a dermatitis on any part of the body. A dermatitis can present in many different ways, which is why any skin rash should be evaluated by a board-certified dermatologic practitioner.
If a dermatitis is presenting in an unusual manner, your dermatologic provider may decide to perform a skin biopsy to ensure a more accurate diagnosis. This is a quick and relatively painless procedure that takes a small plug of skin that is sent to the laboratory for tissue analysis under a microscope.
What are Common Causes of Dermatitis?
There are so many! Some of the more common dermatitis’s we treat include atopic dermatitis (“eczema”), contact dermatitis, allergic dermatitis, and seborrheic dermatitis (“dandruff”). Sometimes, something as simple as a change in weather, environment, or product is enough to spur a dermatitis. Genetic makeup and certain predispositions may also make someone more at risk of developing certain dermatitis’s.
How is Dermatitis Treated?
Dermatitis is treated depending on the causative agent and how severe the dermatitis is. Starting by removing the offending agent, if one is found, as well as initiating a sensitive-skin care routine is a reasonable first step. With mild cases of dermatitis, a topical steroid cream or ointment may be sufficient to calm the inflammation. With a more widespread or severe dermatitis, an oral steroid may be needed.
How can Dermatitis be Prevented?
Some dermatitis may be prevented by being kind to your skin and using appropriate and gentle skincare products. We recommend using gentle soaps, moisturizers, and laundry products with no dyes, fragrances, or perfumes. Sometimes dryer sheets or fabric softeners can make a dermatitis worse.
Keeping the skin moisturized year-round can help prevent certain types of dermatitis, which is why we recommend moisturizing every day, head-to-toe, immediately after showering or bathing, when your skin is still just slightly damp. Limiting hot showers and baths is always a good idea if you have sensitive skin or are prone to dermatitis.
It’s important to recognize that any skin rash or dermatitis should be evaluated by a dermatologic professional, especially if you’re pregnant, are immunocompromised, or have multiple health issues.