Dermatitis (or eczema) is a general term used to describe inflammation of the skin that causes visible changes.

Common Types of Dermatitis

Atopic Dermatitis

The most frequent form of dermatitis or eczema, atopic dermatitis is thought to be caused by abnormal functioning of the body's immune system. It is characterized by itchy, inflamed skin, normally on the arms, legs and trunk, but also the face and neck especially in small children. Atopic dermatitis tends to run in families. About 2/3 of the people who develop this form of eczema do so before the age of one. Atopic dermatitis generally flares up and recedes intermittently throughout the patient's life and scratching the diseased skin makes the condition worse. Atopic dermatitis is often associated with asthma and environmental allergens such as dust mites, trees, grasses and cats. Treatment include moisturizers, bath treatments and over-the-counter topical steroids in mild cases to potent topical steroids, oral antibiotics and antihistamines in more severe cases.

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is caused when the skin comes into contact with an allergy-producing agent such as a plant or chemicals. Common allergens include nickel, topical antibiotics, formaldehyde products, poison ivy, rubber additives and chemicals in shampoos. Finding the triggering allergen is important for future prevention and often skin testing is done to identify the offending agent.

Nummular Dermatitis

This form of eczema appears as round patches of irritated skin that may be crusted, scaly and extremely itchy. Nummular dermatitis most frequently appears on the arms, back, buttocks and lower legs. This typically occurs in adults. Treatment is similar to that of atopic dermatitis.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is a common condition that causes yellowish, oily and scaly patches on the scalp, eyebrows, mid face, ears and other hear-bearing areas. Dandruff and ear eczema in adults, and cradle cap in infants  are both forms of seborrheic dermatitis. Unlike other types of eczema, seborrheic dermatitis does not necessarily itch. This is felt to be a response to a yeast that lives in near the hair follicle. It is more common in those whose family members have it,  those that less-frequently bathe and patients with neurological disease such as Parkinson's disease. Aggravated factors include stress and sleep deprivation.

Stasis Dermatitis

Also known as varicose eczema, this form of eczema is a skin irritation caused by the leakage of fluid from the venous system due to dysfunctional values in deeper veins of the leg. It is most common in middle-aged and elderly people who have varicose veins and edema of the lower legs and ankles. Symptoms include itching and signs include reddish-brown discoloration and scaling of the skin on one or both legs. As the condition progresses, it can lead to blistering, oozing and skin erosions or ulcers. Treatment include compression hose to reduce lower leg swelling, topical agents for moisturization and to reduce itching and possibly a referral to a vascular specialist for deep vein treatments.