By Carmen Santana-Restituyo
September 14, 2010
Dermatitis means skin inflammation. In most cases the early stages are characterized by red, itchy skin, although acute attacks may result in crusty scales or blisters that ooze fluid. Although treatment is very similar, the doctor will try to narrow the type in order to determine the cause.
The types of dermatitis include:
Contact dermatitis causes the skin to develop a pink or red rash, which usually itches. Pinpointing the exact cause of contact dermatitis can be difficult. Among plants, the leading culprits are poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac, although contact with certain flowers, herbs, fruits, and vegetables can cause dermatitis in some people. Common chemical irritants include detergents, soaps, some synthetic fibers, nail polish remover, antiperspirants, and formaldehyde. Wearing rubber gloves, unwashed new clothes, or plated jewelry can also cause contact dermatitis if the person is allergic to these substances. The inflammation is occasionally caused by cosmetics, perfumes, hair dyes, and skin-care products.
Nummular dermatitis consists of distinctive coin-shaped red plaques that are most commonly seen on the legs, hands, arms, and torso. It is more common in men than women and the peak age of onset is between 55 and 65. Living in a dry environment or taking frequent very hot showers can cause this condition.
Atopic dermatitis, or eczema, causes the skin to itch, scale, swell, and sometimes blister. This type of eczema usually runs in families and is often associated with allergies, asthma, and stress.
Seborrheic dermatitis consists of greasy, yellowish, or reddish scaling on the scalp and other hairy areas, as well as on the face or genitals, and in skin creases along the nose, under the breasts, and elsewhere. This condition is called cradle cap in infants. It may be aggravated by stress.
Stasis dermatitis is caused by poor circulation and can happen in people with varicose veins, congestive heart failure, or other conditions which result in chronic leg swelling. Veins in the lower legs fail to return blood efficiently, causing pooling of blood and fluid buildup and edema. This leads to irritation, especially around the ankles.
No matter the type or cause of dermatitis, the symptoms can vary from moderate to severe. For some, dermatitis can simply cause dry skin; for others it can result in such a severe reaction leading to loss of sleep, appetite and even depression. In order to avoid complications the recommendation is to obtain medical assistance immediately. It is recommended that the patient be evaluated by a dermatologist. The earlier it is diagnosed the faster the patient will recover.
Varying from acute to chronic dermatitis affects thousands of people. There does not have to be a history of allergies or family tendency for someone to be diagnosed with dermatitis. It is important to recognize triggers and avoid them. An acute exacerbation can cause lasting effects such as scarring to the skin. So, keep in mind the best treatment is early detection, early diagnosis and certainly lots of awareness to avoid all those things that can cause an exacerbation.
Written by Carmen Santana-Restituyo, RN, BSN, nurse by profession. Manager and program director of Health House of Hamilton Park in Bklyn, NY