Dermatitis: Types, Causes & Symptoms

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated -

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As the exterior covering on our body, the skin is also vulnerable to infections and diseases like dermatitis that may be caused due to allergens of foreign origin. The condition manifests with symptoms, which include itching, crusted skin, gray or yellow scales around the ears, red and itchy rashes caused due to an irritant, among others.

What is Dermatitis?

Dermatitis is a skin condition that causes itching sensations and inflammation. It is derived from the Greek word “derma” (skin) and “titis” (inflammation). The rashes are itchy, red and don’t follow distinctive patterns/margins. The appearance of the rash varies with how long the rash lasts. Depending on the manifestation, dermatitis can be classified as either acute or chronic dermatitis.

  • Acute dermatitis: Manifests as blisters, crusting, and scaling, particularly in those people with subacute dermatitis.
  • Chronic dermatitis: Sufferers experience hardening or thickening of the skin, also known as lichenification.


Types and Causes

Several types of dermatitis have been distinguished by their responsible agents or cell mechanisms. Some of the most common types include:

  • Atopic dermatitis (AD): This type results in long-term hypersensitivity to the skin. Sufferers can develop allergic reactions that include asthma, hay fever, and eczema.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis: It is a condition in which flaky scales of white and yellow color occur for people with an oily skin type. The usual affected areas include scalp, neck, face, and chest. It is called cradle cap when it occurs in infants and acne is often the name used for older people.
  • Allergic contact dermatitis (ACD): This type appears as an allergic reaction after one is exposed to certain types of allergens and antibodies.
  • Irritant contact dermatitis (ICD): This occurs due to exposure to various irritants.
  • Stasis dermatitis: It is also called gravitational dermatitis because of how it demonstrates or develops in the body. It gradually increases from thighs and legs and is the highest at the ankles.
  • Diaper dermatitis: This type is caused by wearing wet diapers for longer periods of time, which irritates the skin.
  • Dyshidrotic dermatitis: This type is characterized by reddening, scaling, and small but deep blisters on the hands and feet.
  • Nummular dermatitis: In this type, round and itchy patches are known to appear at random places on the body. In worse conditions, the patches can ooze out and crusting can appear. It is prevalent among old people with dry skin or people that live in dry areas.
  • Auto-sensitization dermatitis: This type occurs when different types of skin abrasions appear on the skin due to microbial infections. These abrasions can develop into swelling.
  • Lichen simplex dermatitis (LSC): Skin rashes appear because of intense scratching, which can also lead to skin thickening.


Although every type has different symptoms, some are common to all:

  • Atopic dermatitis: Persistent, intense itching
  • Stasis dermatitis: Crushed skin appearing on the lower legs/around the ankles
  • Seborrheic dermatitis: Greyish, yellow scales in and around the ears, on the scalp, or near the eyebrows
  • Contact dermatitis: A red rash limited to a certain area indicates exposure to an irritant
  • Nummular dermatitis: Red, itchy, circular patches of crushed skin
  • Cradle cap: In newborns, a thick and yellowish scalp rash is occasionally accompanied by a diaper rash Protection Status
About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve, Co-Founder, Organic Facts is a health and wellness enthusiast and is responsible for managing it. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University, US. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. An ardent follower of naturopathy, she believes in healing with foods. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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