What is dermatitis? What is eczema?
‘Dermatitis’ and ‘eczema’ are two terms that often overlap. While dermatitis and eczema both refer to skin conditions that cause irritation, there are differences between the two in terms of their causes. To put it simply, dermatitis is one of the causes of eczema. Dermatitis is a chronic skin condition of red, inflamed and itchy skin. Rather than being a condition itself, eczema refers to a group of skin diseases that causes skin inflammation, which includes dermatitis. So what are the causes of eczema and dermatitis? How do we treat them?
Causes of dermatitis vs. eczema
The causes of dermatitis varies between different types. One of the most common types of dermatitis is called atopic dermatitis. It is a chronic condition usually caused by a combination of genetic mutation and environmental factors. Atopic dermatitis is most common in children and those with allergies. Contact dermatitis occurs when your skin reacts to irritating substances it comes in direct contact with chemicals such as bleach, soap or certain metals. Other types of dermatitis include seborrheic dermatitis, neurodermatitis, nummular dermatitis, et cetera. Triggers such as dry skin, stress, hormonal changes, heat and sweat can also cause dermatitis to flare.
Eczema, on the other hand, is caused by several distinct types of skin conditions, which includes atopic and contact dermatitis, fungal infections, scabies, pompholyx, to name just a few. In many cases, eczema refers to atopic dermatitis specifically. In fact, many dermatologists use the terms ‘atopic dermatitis’ and ‘eczema’ interchangeably.
What are the symptoms of dermatitis and eczema?
Although symptoms of signs may vary from person to person, dermatitis and eczema are typically characterised by the below symptoms:
- Itchy skin
- Blisters as a result of scratching or rubbing
- Redness caused by extra blood flow in the affected area
- Dry, cracked and flaky skin
- Stinging, burning or painful skin
- Rashes and swelling
- Pale patches and pigmentation
These symptoms can occur on different parts of the body, such as palms, fingers, eyelids, joints, legs and neck, and some people experience more severe symptoms than others.
What are the treatments for dermatitis and eczema?
Although the causes of dermatitis and eczema are complex, itchy skin is the most common and noticeable symptom experienced by most patients. The main goal of treatment, therefore, is to reduce itchiness. This can be managed by applying topical steroids and avoiding sources of irritation. Taking shorter baths, using mild soaps and avoiding hot water are also recommended by dermatologists. Occasionally, doctors may prescribe medications.
Another daily home remedy that effectively helps prevent dermatitis and eczema is applying a gentle moisturiser at least twice a day. This helps to retain the skin’s moisture and prevent dry skin. It also soothes existing itchiness.
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