Dermatitis: Types, Symptoms, & Treatments

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. Various treatments may be employed to tackle this disease and eliminate the symptoms, which include itching, crusted skin, gray or yellow scales around the ears, red and itchy rashes caused due to an irritant, and a number of others.

What is Dermatitis?

It 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. Dermatitis rashes are itchy, red and don’t follow distinctive patterns/margins. The appearance of the rash varies with the age of the rash. People 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. In some languages, people often misunderstand that dermatitis and eczema are synonyms, but they’re not. It signifies an acute condition, while eczema is a chronic condition.

Types and Causes of Dermatitis

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

Allergic Contact Dermatitis: This type appears as an allergic reaction after being exposed to certain types of allergens and antibodies.

Irritant Contact Dermatitis: This occurs due to exposure to various irritants.

Atopic Dermatitis: 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 of dermatitis is characterized by reddening, scaling, and small but deep blisters on the hands and feet.

dermatitisNummular 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 of dermatitis 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: Skin rashes appear because of intense scratching, which can also lead to skin thickening.

Signs and Symptoms of Dermatitis

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.

Treatments & Home Remedies for Dermatitis

Treatments and home remedies for Dermatitis include regular skin cleansing, a mixture of elm bark, oak bark, and comfrey root, oil treatment by mixing vegetable oil and lavender oil, applying chamomile flower essence, having nutritious food, and wearing cotton clothing. These home remedies can be adopted to provide fast relief against the unbearable complications of dermatitis.

Ayurvedic Treatment

Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine and holistic healing, discusses dermatitis and its cures. One of the cures is Acacia Arabica, which is called an Indian Arabic tree. The bark of this tree is particularly useful in treating dermatitis. Boil a small quantity of Acacia Arabica in water and let the vapors reach the affected area. After this, clarified butter can be applied to the affected area.

Skin Wash

A skin wash is equally good at providing relief against irritations. Make a solution by powdering oak bark, slippery elm bark, and comfrey root. Mix a teaspoon of each of them in about half a liter of water and boil it well. Carefully apply it to the affected area. The herbal qualities of the solution help to soothe the most dominant or irritating inflammation. Use of some of these herbs is banned/restricted in countries such as the UK so consult your local health specialist before use.

Scalp Treatment

Complications on the scalp can be treated with the use of therapeutic oils. Such oils can be created by mixing together vegetable oil as a base, along with a few drops of lavender oil. This solution is to be heated and generously applied to the scalp. This is to be left overnight and then washed the following morning.

Foot Treatment

Boil a tumbler of water with chamomile flowers. After cooling it, add some pieces of ice to the tumbler. Chamomile flowers are known to possess therapeutic properties, so soaking your feet in them will help relieve the symptoms. The same treatment can also be applied to the hands and legs.

Avoid Scratching

Avoid scratching the irritated areas. It breaks the skin and can cause secondary infections. To avoid involuntary scratching, trim your nails, and try to use your fingers to massage, rather than nails to scratch. In the case of a child, trim his/her fingernails short and put on some mittens for them while they sleep.

Avoid Dry Air

Dehumidified air worsens dermatitis. The indoors of the patient must be kept moist. As humidifiers don’t cover many areas, it should be kept next to the bed of the patient to provide his/her appropriate access to moist air.

Air Temperature

Avoid rapid changes in your temperature surroundings. The sudden rise or drop in surrounding temperature could trigger the itching. Hot baths should also be avoided, as the skin should not be exposed to extreme temperatures.

Cotton Clothing

A patient with dermatitis can always confidently wear cotton clothing. Woolen, polyester, and artificial synthetics trigger/aggravate itching. Tight clothes should also be avoided. Cotton clothes provide best comfort for the irritated skin.


A study conducted at the Dubai Specialized Medical Centre and Medical Research Labs by Al Waili used honey on dermatitis patients. The study showed positive results for honey being used in dermatitis. Honey was diluted in water and applied to the affected areas. Observations over a period of 12 weeks noted which showed improvements in the conditions of most patients.


Immunity plays a key role in defending the body from allergens and irritants. This protection can be acquired by eating a healthy balanced diet with the necessary vitamins and minerals. Vitamin C, Zinc, and Vitamin B complex are all supplements that can provide improved immunity.

Aloe Vera

Several types of dermatitis cause small blisters to form on the skin which is unbearably itchy. The application of Aloe Vera gel on the severely affected area helps to provide relief. The same can also be used for dermatitis under the eyes. Research conducted in Israel by Da Vardy et al, 1999 showed that Aloe Vera was effective in controlling dermatitis.


A bath is a good remedy to keep the skin clean and provide comfort against irritation. Use a colloidal oatmeal bath treatment, which can be made at home. One cup of oatmeal can be crushed into a very fine powder and mixed with the warm bathwater.

Call Your Doctor If….

Your skin pores start oozing. You might have an infection that requires antibiotic treatment.

The affected skin doesn’t respond to medicated/prescribed creams.

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