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Definition

Dermatitis is also called eczema; it is an inflammation of the skin. Dermatitis can occur on any part of the body, but it mostly affects the hands, feet, and groin. The terms dermatitis and eczema are often used interchangeably. In some cases the term eczematous dermatitis is used. Dermatitis can be acute or chronic or both. Dermatitis is a common condition that isn't life-threatening or contagious. But, it can make you feel uncomfortable and self-conscious. A combination of self care steps and medications can help you treat dermatitis.

Causes

The causes of dermatitis depend on there types. Hand dermatitis can be caused by contact with an irritant, an allergic reaction to a substance, or an inherited condition. Irritant contact dermatitis (ICD) of the hands is most often caused by detergents, certain types of metals, soaps, strong chemicals, and solvents that, either immediately or after repeated exposure, irritate the skin. The cause of perioral dermatitis is unknnown.  But some dermatologists believe it is a form of rosacea or sunlight-worsened seborrheic dermatitis.

Symptoms

Dermatitis may be a brief reaction to a substance. In such cases it may produce symptoms, such as itching and redness, for just a few hours or for only a day or two. Chronic dermatitis persists over a period of time. The hands and feet are particularly vulnerable to chronic dermatitis, because the hands are in frequent contact with many foreign substances and the feet are in the warm, moist conditions created by socks and shoes that favor fungal growth.

Treatment

Dermatitis is best treated if the type is known. However, there are measures that can be taken to improve symptoms even if the exact dermatitis type is not known.

  • Keep skin as moisturized as possible as dry skin causes cracks in the outer layer inhibiting the barrier function of the skin.
  • Reduce itching and scratching with topical medications or antihistamines.
  • Avoid irritating and drying substances such as perfumes or harsh detergents.
  • Treat other rashes, especially fungal infections, even though they may not seem related.
  • Topical steroids: apply a topical steroid cream or ointment to the itchy patches for a 5 to 15 day course. A suitable one will be prescribed by your doctor or dermatologist. Make sure you understand when and where to apply it, and how often you may repeat the course. Steroids should usually be applied once or twice daily to the red and itchy areas only. Sometimes two or more topical steroids will be supplied, either for different parts of the body, or for differing grades of dermatitis.

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