The term “dermatitis” is used to describe a general inflammation of the skin. It occurs for many different reasons and causes a number of different symptoms. Three main types of dermatitis exist: contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, and seborrheic dermatitis.
Contact dermatitis occurs after direct contact with a specific substance, such as cosmetics, cleaning products, certain types of jewelry, or poison ivy. Atopic dermatitis, also called “eczema,” is a form of dermatitis that results from immune system problems, genetics, and environmental conditions. Atopic dermatitis is usually chronic. Seborrheic dermatitis is most likely caused by a fungus on the skin.
The symptoms of dermatitis vary. Atopic dermatitis usually develops as a red, itchy rash behind the knees, inside the elbows, or on the front of the neck. Contact dermatitis appears as a rash on a part of the body that came into contact with an allergen or irritating substance. Seborrheic dermatitis develops as scaly patches on the scalp, face, back, or upper chest.
Dr. Bruell usually diagnoses dermatitis by examining the patient’s skin. If Dr. Bruell needs to rule out other possible causes, she may run certain tests. If she suspects that the patient has contact dermatitis but the cause of the inflammation isn’t clear, she performs a specific test designed to isolate the substance causing the patient’s rash.
The treatment for dermatitis varies based on the specific symptoms and the cause. Depending on the situation, Dr. Bruell prescribes light therapy, corticosteroid creams, or topical medications designed to target the immune system.
In some cases, patients manage dermatitis symptoms while they wait to see the doctor or while they wait for medicine to take effect. In order to alleviate discomfort from the rash, patients can:
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