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Dermatitis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Cost

Last Updated: Apr 20, 2023

What is Dermatitis?

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Eczema, allergic responses, and irritation are all included in the broad category of skin diseases known as dermatitis.These conditions are characterised by dry, itchy skin and can range from mild to severe.

Types of Dermatitis :

  • Atopic Dermatitis: Atopic dermatitis, often known as eczema, is a chronic skin illness that results in red, itchy, and irritated skin areas.
  • Contact Dermatitis: This kind of dermatitis develops when an allergen or irritant, such as a substance from a plant or chemical, comes into contact with the skin. It can cause redness, itching, and burning.
  • Seborrheic Dermatitis: Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that causes scaly, red patches on the face and scalp. It's often accompanied by dandruff.
  • Stasis Dermatitis: This type of dermatitis affects the lower legs and is caused by poor circulation in the veins of the legs. Symptoms include swelling, redness and itching in the affected areas.
  • Nummular Dermatitis: Also known as discoid eczema, this type of dermatitis causes coin-shaped spots on the skin that itch intensely and can become scaly over time.

What causes Dermatitis?

  • Allergic reactions: Allergic reactions are one of the most common causes of dermatitis, as exposure to certain allergens can trigger an immune system response that leads to skin inflammation. Common allergens that can cause dermatitis include pollen, animal dander, certain foods, and certain chemicals.
  • Irritants: Contact with certain irritants can also cause dermatitis. Soaps, detergents, solvents, and other chemicals that come into touch with the skin and trigger an inflammatory response are examples of these irritants.
  • Stress: Psychological stress has been linked to the development of dermatitis in some individuals. In these cases, stress hormones released by the body trigger inflammation in the skin and lead to outbreaks of dermatitis.
  • Hormonal changes: Hormonal changes associated with puberty or pregnancy can increase a person's risk for developing dermatitis due to their effect on the skin's natural balance of oils and moisture.

What are the symptoms of Dermatitis?

  • Itching: The most prevalent symptom of dermatitis is itching, which may be moderate to severe.
  • Redness: The skin may become red, dry, and scaly due to inflammation caused by the skin condition.
  • Swelling: The affected area may become swollen due to inflammation caused by the skin condition.
  • Blisters: In some cases, blisters may appear on the surface of the skin due to fluid build-up in the area.
  • Crusting: In severe cases of dermatitis, the skin may form a crusty layer over the affected area due to excess shedding of dead skin cells.
  • Pain: Some people experience pain in the affected area due to inflammation and itching associated with dermatitis.


How can you prevent Dermatitis?

  • Keep your skin clean and dry: Cleaning and drying the skin can prevent the buildup of irritants, bacteria, and allergens that can worsen dermatitis.
  • Avoid irritants and allergens: If a person notices that their dermatitis flares up when exposed to certain materials or substances, they should try to avoid these triggers.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes: Tight clothing can rub against the skin and worsen dermatitis symptoms, so people should wear loose-fitting clothes whenever possible.
  • Use mild soaps or cleansers: Harsh soaps or cleansers can strip away the natural oils in the skin, aggravating dermatitis symptoms. People should opt for mild cleansers instead.
  • Use moisturisers: Moisturisers are especially important for people with dermatitis as they help to keep moisture locked in and prevent further irritation of the skin.

Dermatitis - Diagnosis and Tests

  • Skin Scraping: A little portion of skin is removed for this test, and it is then inspected under a microscope. This helps to identify any infectious organisms that may be causing the dermatitis.
  • Blood Test: Blood tests can be used to look for signs of infection or inflammation that might be associated with dermatitis.
  • Patch Test: This examination identifies allergic responses to specific chemicals that may be the source of the dermatitis.
  • Skin Biopsy: A small sample of skin is taken and examined under a microscope to check for signs of infection or inflammation and to determine the type of dermatitis present.
  • Phototesting: This test involves exposing the skin to ultraviolet light in order to identify any unusual reactions that could indicate a photoallergic reaction or photosensitivity associated with the dermatitis.

What are possible complications of Dermatitis?

  • Secondary infections: Dermatitis can cause the skin to become dry and cracked, creating an opening for bacteria or fungi to enter the body and cause an infection.
  • Skin scarring: Long-term dermatitis can cause permanent scarring of the skin as a result of intense scratching and rubbing.
  • A weakened immune system: Prolonged exposure to allergens or irritants can weaken the body’s natural defences, making it more susceptible to other illnesses or infections.
  • Disturbed sleep: Severe itching associated with dermatitis can make it difficult for people to get a good night’s rest, leading to tiredness and fatigue during the day.
  • Psychological impacts: Itching, burning, and pain associated with dermatitis can lead to depression or anxiety in some people as they struggle to cope with its physical symptoms.

Home Remedies for Dermatitis?

  • Apply a paste of turmeric and neem powder: Neem and turmeric are two of the most powerful antiseptic and antifungal agents that can help reduce inflammation, itching, and other symptoms of dermatitis. Make a thick paste by mixing equal parts of neem powder and turmeric powder with warm water, then apply it to the affected area.
  • Try aloe vera gel: Aloe vera gel treats several skin conditions, including dermatitis. Its soothing and cooling effects help skin repair and decrease inflammation and irritation. Aloe vera gel may be applied directly to the afflicted region or mixed with honey or yoghurt for extra benefits.
  • Add coconut oil to your diet: Coconut oil treats dermatitis due to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial qualities.Eating 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil daily can help reduce the symptoms of dermatitis and provide nourishment to the skin from within. You can also use coconut oil topically as an effective moisturiser for dry skin associated with dermatitis.

What to eat in Dermatitis?

  • Foods that are high in antioxidants: Antioxidants help reduce inflammation, which is a major symptom of dermatitis.Berries, dark leafy greens, tomatoes, nuts, and seeds are antioxidant-rich.
  • Foods that are rich in essential fatty acids: Essential fatty acids like omega-3s can help reduce inflammation and keep skin healthy. Fatty fish, flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seeds, and hemp seeds provide important fatty acids.
  • Foods that are low in sugar: High sugar intake can increase inflammation levels in the body and potentially worsen dermatitis symptoms. Avoiding processed foods and added sugars is a good way to limit your sugar intake and maintain healthy skin.
  • Foods that are high in zinc: Zinc helps promote skin cell growth and repair and can help reduce dermatitis symptoms when taken as a supplement or through diet. Foods that are high in zinc include oysters, beef, pork chops, yoghurt, milk, cashews, almonds, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, spinach and mushrooms.

What not to eat in Dermatitis?

  • Foods high in sugar and salt: Consuming too much sugar and salt can lead to inflammation, which can worsen dermatitis.
  • Dairy products: Lactose and casein in dairy products might make eczema worse.
  • Gluten-containing foods: Gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains, may cause an immune system reaction in people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. This can lead to skin inflammation and worsening of dermatitis symptoms.
  • Processed foods: Processed foods are often high in additives that can trigger allergies or sensitivities, which could worsen dermatitis symptoms.
  • Caffeine: Caffeine is a stimulant that may cause the body to release histamine, a substance that can aggravate dermatitis symptoms.

Dermatitis Treatment

  • Photodynamic therapy (PDT): This treatment involves applying a special kind of light to treat severe cases of dermatitis that don’t respond to other treatments.
  • Light therapy: Light therapy may be used to reduce itching and inflammation in people with moderate to severe cases of dermatitis.
  • Biologic Drugs: Biologic drugs target specific parts of the immune system that cause skin reactions such as itching, redness, swelling, and pain associated with dermatitis. These drugs can be very effective in treating severe cases of dermatitis but can also have serious side effects so they must be used with caution.
  • Moisturisers: Moisturisers help trap water in the skin which can help reduce dryness, cracking, flaking and itching caused by dermatitis. Examples include petroleum jelly, mineral oil and shea butter-based products.

Which doctor to consult for Dermatitis?

If you are experiencing a rash, itching, or other skin irritation caused by dermatitis, it is best to consult a dermatologist.

Dermatologists are medical doctors who specialise in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases related to the skin, hair, and nails.

Which are the best medicines for Dermatitis?

  • Topical Corticosteroids: These drugs reduce inflammation and itching when they are applied directly to the skin. Examples include hydrocortisone, mometasone, and fluticasone.
  • Topical Immunomodulators: These medications work by calming the immune system's response to irritation and inflammation in the skin. Examples include tacrolimus, pimecrolimus, and cyclosporine.
  • Antihistamines: These drugs block the body's natural release of histamine, which can reduce itching and irritation caused by dermatitis. Examples include loratadine, cetirizine, and fexofenadine.
  • Antibiotics: These drugs are used to treat bacterial infections of the skin caused by dermatitis. Examples include doxycycline, erythromycin, clindamycin, and mupirocin.
  • Topical Retinoids: These medications are used to reduce scaling or flaking of the skin caused by dermatitis flare-ups. Examples include tretinoin (Retin-A) and adapalene (Differin).

How long does it take to recover from Dermatitis?

With the right care, minor instances often go away in a few weeks, however more severe cases may take several months or more to get well. In rare circumstances, persistent dermatitis may last a lifetime and need continuing care.

Are the results of the treatment permanent for dermatitis?

No, the results of treatment for dermatitis are not permanent. Different treatments may provide relief for a period of time, but dermatitis is often a chronic condition that requires ongoing management.

What are post-treatment guidelines for Dermatitis?

  • Use mild, unscented soaps and cleansers to wash skin.
  • Avoid hot showers and baths, as they can worsen dry skin.
  • After a shower or bath, moisturise the skin while it's still wet.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing made of natural fibres such as cotton or linen, to avoid irritating the affected area further.
  • Avoid exposure to harsh chemicals and other irritants such as detergents, perfumes, and cosmetics that could worsen symptoms of dermatitis.If
  • a topical medication is prescribed by a doctor, use it regularly until instructed otherwise by the doctor and follow all instructions carefully when using it.

What is the cost of Dermatitis treatments in India?

Generally, topical creams and ointments used to treat mild dermatitis cost between Rs 300-1000, while more severe cases may require oral medications, light therapy or other treatments which can cost up to Rs 10,000.

In some cases, consulting a dermatologist may also be necessary, with costs ranging from Rs 200-2000 depending on the doctor's expertise.

What are side-effects of Dermatitis treatments?

  • Topical corticosteroids: Common side effects include burning, stinging, and skin thinning. The risk of skin damage from exposure to the sun or other environmental variables may rise if powerful topical corticosteroids are used over an extended period of time because they can permanently thin the skin.
  • Oral medications: Side effects of these medications include dry mouth, drowsiness, weight gain, elevated blood pressure, and mood swings.
  • Light therapy: Possible side effects include localised pain, redness, swelling, and dryness at the treatment site. Long-term use of light therapy may also increase a person's risk of developing skin cancer.
  • Phototherapy: Common side effects include redness, swelling, blistering, dryness, burning sensations at the treatment site, and an increased risk of developing skin cancer from repeated exposure to UV light.

Dermatitis - conclusion

If you are suffering from any complications relating to Dermatitis then you should consult a doctor nearby as they can have complications like psychological impact, secondary infection, weak immune system, sleep problems etc in which treatment courses can range from a few months to years depending on the severity of the situation.

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Written ByDrx Hina FirdousPhD (Pharmacology) Pursuing, M.Pharma (Pharmacology), B.Pharma - Certificate in Nutrition and Child CarePharmacology
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Reviewed ByDr. Bhupindera Jaswant SinghMD - Consultant PhysicianGeneral Physician
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