What is Dermatitis?

Dermatitis is the inflammation of the skin. If this sounds very general, that’s because it is: the number of conditions that fall under the umbrella of dermatitis are almost without number. Every rash in the world that causes the redness of the skin is a form of dermatitis. Eczema, which causes the skin to dry and flake, is a form of dermatitis. Even ailments like chicken pox qualify as dermatitis!

Dermatitis, transliterated, means ‘swelling of the skin’. As consequence, every form of dermatitis involves some type of swelling, or inflammation. The cause and effect of this inflammation may vary widely. Common to most forms of inflammation, however, are a persistent redness, the affected skin being warm or hot to the touch, itching in the affected zone, pain in the affected zone, or both. Dermatitis may result from something as simple as dehydration on a hot day, to a minor allergic reaction to a cosmetic product, to a reaction to skin damage from harsh chemical exposure, to symptomatic interference from something as deadly and immediately serious as a snakebite.

The sheer breadth and depth of dermatitis conditions make it difficult to enumerate all qualifying conditions. Thus, when there is crossover between different conditions, they will usually be listed under their parent cause.

Who gets Dermatitis?

Because the number of dermatitis conditions that exist are so vast and varied, so too are the various predispositions that exist for dermatitis. As a very vague rule, parents that have frequent difficulties with various skin conditions are more likely to have children who suffer from the same; genetics do certainly play a role.

Some dermatitis conditions arise unique to certain age groups, triggering on older skin with ravaged by free radicals and ultraviolet light or younger skin that’s vulnerable to both and sensitive to so much more. Others primarily affect individuals of a particular skin tone (generally, fairer skin implies greater vulnerability). Still others may be triggered by blood or endocrine conditions with a genetic root.

What causes Dermatitis?

Dermatitis can be caused by any number of environmental and internal factors. Different types of dermatitis can and frequently do occur on a concurrent basis; one does not preclude another from developing, and sometimes one can actually be a factor in the development of another.

Primary causes for simple dermatitis include mechanical damage to the skin through scratching or other abrasions (usually ones that leave the skin intact, such as those caused by consistent, persistent rubbing of the skin by clothes), exposure to heat (though usually not sufficient heat to cause serious burns), various forms of viral and bacterial infection (which may or may not cause an outbreak of pustules or similar symptoms), and various forms of allergic reaction to animals and plants.

What does Dermatitis cause?

Dermatitis conditions can cause a number of secondary conditions. Dryness of the skin is far and away the most common. Frequently, the itchiness coupled with the vulnerability of the dry skin will provoke individuals to scratch, even subconsciously, which almost always results in a minor bacterial infection.

Other forms of dermatitis can cause other effects. These frequently correlate to its origin. For example, virally-caused dermatitis conditions may see the dermatitis spread in other forms through other parts of the body.

Scratching at or of skin affected by dermatitis is generally more likely to cause scarring than the excoriation of healthy skin. This is a result of the dryness and sensitivity present in swollen or inflamed skin, to say nothing of any secondary influences that may be in play. Conditions under the dermatitis umbrella include those with blisters, papules, pustules and other raised and damaged forms of skin. Scarring may come in the form of solid, jagged lesions (edema) or in the for of simple round pockmarks, as with acne scarring.

How serious is Dermatitis?

Dermatitis conditions vary widely in seriousness. When dermatitis is worthy of concern, it generally exists as a symptom, rather than as the end cause. Thus, dermatitis is more frequently indicative of a serious condition than it is serious in and of itself. For example, dermatitis may result from simple fabric wear due to a scratchy work uniform. This can be avoided with a t-shirt worn underneath, as appropriate or possible, or made more bearable by the application of lotion after the fact. This is a sharp contrast to the dermatitis that can result from an infected insect bite, or the allergic reaction to said insect bite, or the inflammation that might be caused by the venom of a poisonous bite. Thus, dermatitis does cover the full spectrum of possible conditions and should be considered with full thoughtfulness.

Many, if not most dermatitis conditions are cosmetic at worst, simply causing a temporary affect on one’s looks. More serious dermatitis conditions may result in scarring or other damage. The most serious can, rarely, spread to the retinas or other vulnerable parts of the body. However, as stated, dermatitis can be the harbinger of an underlying condition, or the direct symptom of something far more serious, so no case of dermatitis should be treated without caution; a careful eye and a keen awareness of one’s own body is wise when dermatitis enters the picture.

What does Dermatitis treatment look like?

Dermatitis treatment is different depending upon the underlying cause of the condition. Dermatitis itself, in the form of the swelling of the skin, can be treated on its own. Ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatories can have a profound impact on the inflammation, and lotion can easily resolve any of the dryness that may result from an advanced case.

Other treatments for dermatitis-type conditions may involve the application of antibiotics or more advanced anti-inflammatories. Otherwise, dermatitis conditions are treated in accordance with their specific symptoms.

Many treatments for dermatitis are not treatments as-such but rather preventative measures. Allergic reactions are easily avoided by simply avoiding the source of the allergy, if said allergy is related to animals or a very particular ingredient in cosmetics and lotions. This is more difficult when it is related to an ingredient in food or other, more widespread causes. It is recommended that individuals suffering from a persistent dermatitis condition make a list of the various stimuli that provoke their dermatitis and avoid them to the best of their ability.

How do I know if I have Dermatitis?

Dermatitis is very easy to identify. Any rash that a person can contract qualifies as dermatitis. Anything that results in the redness and swelling of the skin, usually complemented by the resulting heat, sometimes itching, and so forth, is likewise a dermatitis condition to be watched out for.

If you believe you have a dermatitis condition, the primary concern is inevitably what is causing it. The ultimate results of most dermatitis conditions are mild, but the concern comes from the underlying cause. Dermatitis as a result of skin abrasion from a work uniform is irritating but benign, whereas dermatitis as a result of shingles is a major concern that must be handled by a medical professional post-haste. Thus, it is important to remain in good contact with a medical professional at all times, and approach them if a persistent dermatitis condition should present itself, especially if it has no overt explanation (like an allergic reaction, exposure to heat or etcetera).

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