Disease at a Glance: Dermatitis

Dermatitis is a broad category of inflammatory skin disease characterized by red, itchy rash. It can occur on different parts of the body and may look different, depending on the type of Dermatitis. The most common type is Contact Dermatitis, which occurs when something either irritates our skin like chemicals, acids, solvents or metal (this is called Irritant Dermatitis) or when the skin is exposed to something we are allergic to like rubber, latex, fabric, or fragrance (this is called Allergic Dermatitis).


In both cases, the rash occurs in the area that is exposed to the irritant or allergen. The most common symptom of Contact Dermatitis is itching of the skin – in Allergic Dermatitis, this itching may be more severe. Also, an allergic reaction is usually delayed, occurring with a lag of a few hours after the exposure. Treatment includes washing the affected area with water to remove any trace of the irritant or allergen. Medications like corticosteroids and anti-histamines may also be prescribed. The prognosis is good – the rash normally clears up within a few days.


Common Symptoms 

Contact Dermatitis: Red, inflammed skin with fluid-filled blisters  
Seborrheic Dermatitis: White-yellowish flaky scales form on oily areas of the skin
Atopic Dermatitis: Dry, red, itchy skin


Seborrheic dermatitis is an inflammatory skin condition that causes white-yellowish flaky scales to form on oily areas like the scalp, creases of the nose, behind the ears, etc. It can occur with or without reddened skin.  On the other hand, Atopic Dermatitis (also known as eczema) is a chronic condition where the skin becomes red, itchy, cracked and dry. People with Atopic Dermatitis usually have asthma or are prone to seasonal allergies. Although there is no cure for Atopic Dermatitis, it can be controlled with treatment and preventive measures like keeping the skin hydrated, avoiding exposure to known irritants and allergens and controlling the urge to scratch the affected area (itching worsens the rash).



1. American Academy of Dermatology (
2. National Library of Medicine (
3. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (
4. University of Maryland Medical Centre (
5. Mayo Clinic (


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