Many Australians suffer from dermatitis which is an inflammation of the skin. Although, there are different causes of dermatitis, the effect is usually the same. The most common type of atopic is eczema.
It is not contagious, but it is often chronic and recurring. It can also be very painful and uncomfortable, whilst appearing red and unsightly, which can have a physical and emotional impact on sufferers.
The medical experts at 13 DOCTOR have all the information you need to know.
All types feature similar symptoms.
- Red skin
- Swollen skin
- Dry or flaky skin
- Blisters on the skin.
If you or a family member is suffering from dermatitis, see a medical professional as patients with dermatitis are highly prone to developing infections.
In most cases, GPs or dermatologists will prescribe a corticosteroid cream or ointment to relieve symptoms. Other treatments include:
- Non-steroidal creams
- Anti-viral treatments.
Most common forms
Also known as atopic dermatitis, it is the most common form in children. Experts have found 90% of people with eczema experience their first symptoms in the first year of life.
One of the first signs of eczema is dry, irritated dry skin. This causes a red, itchy rash that can develop on your scalp, body, arms, legs and face. This rash can get lumpy, weepy and crusty, making it prone to infection.
There is a strong suggestion that families who have a history of ‘atopic tendencies’, such as, asthma and hay fever, may have a greater chance of having a child with eczema.
There are also certain triggers that may cause eczema to flare-up. This includes dry weather, stress, infection and contact irritants.
Studies have shown that as children age, their eczema often improves. Although this condition cannot be cured, it can be managed.
Tips to help eczema sufferers:
- Using soap-free washes
- Avoiding excessive hot water
- Applying moisturiser
- Avoiding known triggers and irritants
- Avoiding dry conditions
- Wearing breathable, soft clothes
- Avoiding scratching the skin.
Contact Dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin caused by contact with an irritating chemical or allergen. Studies have shown that contact dermatitis generally occurs from the irritant type (75 % of the time), compared to the allergic type (25% of the time).
The more common Irritant Contact Dermatitis is caused by the chemical effect of strong alkali or acidic substances that touch the skin. This can happen over time with continued exposure. Everyone can develop this dermatitis if they interact with strong irritants.
The less common Allergic Contact Dermatitis is caused by an allergic reaction between the skin and substance. The reaction to this contact is an individual response, that may take years to develop into symptoms.
The symptoms include the skin becoming red or swollen, or dotted with small, clear, fluid-filled blisters. These blisters break down and weep fluid. The affected skin is often extremely itchy, and then often thickens, scales and cracks.
One of the easiest ways to test for allergic dermatitis is to perform a patch test. This requires placing small amounts of substances that often trigger allergic dermatitis onto the sufferer’s skin to see if they trigger a reaction.
The best thing to do is have the patient avoid the known allergen, while treating the dermatitis with a topical steroid.
Seborrheic – described as red, itchy and scaly. It is usually found on the scalp, face and other areas like the eyebrows, beard and folds of skin.
Dandruff on the scalp is considered a mild form of this dermatitis.
Experts think it is caused by a build-up of yeast, causing the skin to break down and oil to inflame the skin. This can be caused by stress and other illnesses.
Treatment methods include anti-yeast shampoos, and in severe cases, steroid creams and ointments to reduce inflammation.
Venous – A blue/brown discolouration of the skin caused by poor circulation of the veins. It is most common in the lower legs and ankles.
The first symptoms are itchy skin which is reddened and mildly scaly. Over several months, the skin turns dark brown, hardening. Eventually, the skin may break down and form a painful sore. Compression stockings, continued exercise and in some cases, weightloss, can help to improve symptoms.
Nummular – usually affecting the elderly, this is characterised with well-defined, small round or oval red patches with tiny blisters, scabs and scales which can be extremely itchy. With no known cause, this is a chronic and recurring condition.
Dyshidrotic eczema – commonly affecting hands and feet with tiny and itchy blisters. The blisters may cause peeling and cracks in the skin. Therefore, it is important to take extra care when it comes to avoiding infection. This condition usually occurs when there is a dramatic change in the temperature or from stress.
A common treatment for this dermatitis is to soak the affected hands or feet in weak potassium permanganate, or the application of strong topical steroids.
Most importantly, if you or a family member are suffering from dermatitis, find a trusted GP to help diagnose or refer you to a dermatologist to begin a treatment plan. You can speak to a medical expert at 13 DOCTOR over the phone or via videoconferencing and receive referrals or prescriptions from the comfort of your own home.