What Are the Different Types of Dermatitis?
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Atopic Dermatitis - Types, Causes, and Treatment

Published on Sep 27, 2022 and last reviewed on Mar 09, 2023   -  5 min read


Atopic dermatitis is the most common form of dermatitis. Read the article to know more about this condition and the other types of dermatitis.

What Is Atopic Dermatitis?

Dermatitis is a term for a group of conditions that cause skin inflammation. There are different types of dermatitis, but atopic dermatitis is the most common of all. All forms of dermatitis are harmless and are not contagious. Atopic dermatitis often called atopic eczema is a disorder characterized by skin inflammation. Atopic dermatitis can happen at any age but it is more common in children. It is more likely to develop in people with asthma or hay fever and a family history of eczema, asthma, or hay fever. Hallmark features of atopic dermatitis include dry, itchy skin and red rashes that come and go.

What Causes Atopic Dermatitis?

Atopic dermatitis mainly happens when the skin’s natural barrier against irritants and allergens gets weakened. Various combinations of factors contribute to the development of atopic dermatitis, including:

  • Genetics.

  • Dry skin.

  • Rough clothing.

  • Household chemicals.

  • An immune system problem.

  • Foods, dust, mites, and other allergens.

What Are the Symptoms of Atopic Dermatitis?

Most often, atopic dermatitis affects the skin on the face, hands, feet, inner elbows, and back of the knees. The signs and symptoms may vary from person to person and include:

  • Dry skin.

  • Severe itching, especially at night.

  • Red to brownish-gray patches.

  • Small, raised fluid-filled bumps.

  • Thickened and scaly skin.

  • Sensitive and swollen skin from scratching.

How Is Atopic Dermatitis Diagnosed?

No laboratory test is usually needed to identify atopic dermatitis. The doctor diagnoses by thoroughly examining the skin and reviewing the medical history. In suspected cases, the doctor may perform the following tests:

  • An allergy skin test.

  • Blood tests to rule out the causes of the rash that may be unrelated to dermatitis.

  • A skin biopsy to differentiate one type of dermatitis from another.

How Is Atopic Dermatitis Treated?

The doctor may recommend the following treatments:

  • Corticosteroid cream or ointment to control itching and help repair the skin.

  • Creams containing Tacrolimus and Pimecrolimus control the skin reaction.

  • Antibiotic cream if the skin has a bacterial infection, an open sore, or cracks.

  • Over-the-counter antihistamines for severe itching.

  • Gentle soaps and other products free of perfumes, dyes, and alcohol.

  • Topical immunomodulators for those who do not respond to other treatments.

  • Wet dressings involve applying the affected area with topical corticosteroids and wrapping it with wet bandages.

  • Phototherapy is used as an alternative for people who do not get better with topical medications. Phototherapy involves exposing the skin to ultraviolet light, usually ultraviolet B, from special lamps.

  • Consult a psychiatrist or therapist for counseling if experiencing poor mental or emotional health symptoms or are embarrassed or frustrated by their skin condition.

What Are the Other Types of Dermatitis?

Contact Dermatitis:

  • Contact dermatitis is an allergic reaction characterized by a painful or itchy skin rash.

  • People get contact dermatitis from contact with an allergen or irritants like poison ivy or a chemical.

  • Contact dermatitis is of two types:

    • Irritant contact dermatitis.

    • Allergic contact dermatitis.

  • Treatments for contact dermatitis include skin moisturizers, steroid medications, antibiotics, and wearing protective clothes wherever possible such as gloves, long-sleeves, and trousers.

Dyshidrotic Dermatitis:

  • This type of dermatitis presents with painful, itchy blisters on the edges of the fingers, palms, toes, and the soles of the feet.

  • The cause of dyshidrotic dermatitis is still unknown.

  • Treatments include wet compresses, steroid drugs, and Psoralen combined with ultraviolet A therapy.

Nummular Dermatitis:

  • Nummular dermatitis presents with circular, itchy spots on the skin. The condition more often affects men than women.

  • The cause of nummular dermatitis is still not known. But certain factors may raise the chance of an outbreak, including cold, dry air, exposure to chemicals such as formaldehyde, and exposure to metals, including nickel.

  • Nummular dermatitis causes characteristic coin-shaped red marks. The marks usually appear on the legs, backs of the hands, forearms, lower back, and hips.

  • Treatments include a lukewarm bath or shower, moisturizers, steroid ointments, and antibiotics if an infection develops.


  • This type of dermatitis is caused by severe itching that irritates the skin's nerve endings.

  • The condition commonly affects the back, back of the neck, scalp, genitals, wrists, and ankles.

  • Sometimes irritated skin can grow thick and wrinkled, and infections may also develop in those areas.

  • Treatments include avoiding scratching and taking steroid medicines.

Seborrheic Dermatitis:

  • Seborrheic dermatitis, often called dandruff, appears red, dry, flaky, itchy skin on the scalp and other body parts.

  • The condition may occur due to an inflammatory reaction to excess Malassezia yeast, an organism that lives on the skin's surface.

  • It commonly affects the scalp, eyebrows, sides of the nose, the area behind the ears, groin, and center of the chest.

  • Treatments vary between infants and people and include shampoo containing salicylic acid, selenium sulfide, zinc pyrithione, coal tar, antifungal treatments, and steroid lotions.

Stasis Dermatitis:

  • Stasis dermatitis, also known as gravitational dermatitis, venous eczema, and venous stasis dermatitis, happens when the veins in the lower legs do not properly return blood to their heart.

  • Stasis dermatitis may be related to underlying medical conditions like heart or kidney disease.

  • Stasis dermatitis causes weeping and crusting of the skin. Over time, brown stains may also develop on the skin.

  • Treatments include steroid creams or ointments, creams or lotions that lubricate the skin, moist compresses, antibiotics to treat infections, and elevating the legs.

Diaper Dermatitis:

  • Diaper dermatitis occurs when a rash appears on any part of a baby’s skin covered by a diaper.

  • Diaper rash happens due to wet or infrequently changed diapers, skin sensitivity, and chafing.

  • The condition is marked by a patchwork of bright red skin on the diaper region, including skin buttocks, thighs, and genitals.

How Is Dermatitis Prevented?

The following tips may help prevent all forms of dermatitis:

  • Moisturize the skin at least twice daily using creams, ointments, and lotions.

  • Identify and avoid triggers that worsen the condition, including sweat, stress, obesity, soaps, detergents, dust, and pollen.

  • Take shorter baths or showers of 10 minutes to 15 minutes. Use lukewarm water instead of hot water.

  • Use only gentle soaps. Deodorant and antibacterial soaps can remove the natural oils and dry the skin.

  • Dry the skin carefully. After bathing, dry the skin with a soft towel and apply cream or lotion to the damp skin.

  • Wear gloves and protective clothing while handling chemicals.

  • Wear loose-fitting clothes made from cotton.


Having dermatitis is common, but it may make people feel self-conscious in public. It can also affect self-esteem and quality of life. Almost all forms of dermatitis are treatable. Various treatment options are available to manage the symptoms. See a healthcare provider as soon as the symptoms of dermatitis start appearing. Several preventive measures can help reduce the risk of dermatitis.

Last reviewed at:
09 Mar 2023  -  5 min read




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