Dermatitis: Types, Causes & Symptoms

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As the exterior covering on our body, the skin is also vulnerable to various infections and diseases that may be caused due to allergens of foreign origin. Dermatitis 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). It is a troublesome disease that causes swelling, itching, and burning sensations. The rashes are itchy, red and don’t follow distinctive patterns/margins. The appearance of the rash varies with how long the rash lasts. Those suffering from acute dermatitis have blisters, crusting, and scaling, particularly in those people with subacute dermatitis, while chronic dermatitis sufferers experience hardening or thickening of the skin, also known as lichenification. People often misunderstand dermatitis and eczema as synonyms, but they’re not. It signifies an acute condition, while eczema is a chronic condition.


Types and Causes

Several types of dermatitis have been distinguished by their responsible agents or cell mechanisms.

  • 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.
  • Atopic dermatitis (AD): This type of dermatitis results in long-term hypersensitivity to the skin. People with atopic dermatitis can develop allergic reactions that include asthma, hay fever, and eczema.
  • 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 of irritant dermatitis 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 nummular dermatitis, 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.
  • 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. Cradle Cap is the name given to Seborrheic dermatitis in infants and acne is often the name used as people age.
  • 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. This type of dermatitis can also occur at different places on the body.
  • Lichen simplex dermatitis (LSC): Skin rashes appear because of intense scratching, which can also lead to skin thickening.


Although every type of dermatitis has different symptoms, there are some symptoms that are common for all:

  • Persistent, intense itching indicates atopic dermatitis (eczema).
  • Crushed skin appearing on the lower legs/around the ankles indicates stasis dermatitis.
  • Greyish, yellow scales in and around the ears, on the scalp, or near the eyebrows signal seborrheic dermatitis. In infants, this is called cradle cap.
  • A red rash limited to a certain area indicates exposure to an irritant. This may be contact dermatitis.
  • Red, itchy, circular patches of crushed skin indicate nummular dermatitis. It is prevalent among old people with dry skin or people that live in dry areas.
  • In newborns, a thick and yellowish scalp rash is occasionally accompanied by diaper rash.
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