Dermatitis: Types, symptoms, causes, risk factors and complications

Dermatitis: Symptoms, Causes,Risk factors and Complications

This is a general term which describes an inflammation of the skin. This condition can have many causes and occurs and it can have many forms. Dermatitis usually involves an itchy rash on swollen, reddened skin.  The skin which is affected by this condition may ooze, blister and develop a crust or flake off. Some examples of dermatitis are eczema (atopic dermatitis), rashes and dandruff which are caused by contact with any of a number of substances such as jewelry with nickel in it, soaps and poison ivy. This is a common condition and it is not contagious. This condition can make you feel uncomfortable and self – conscious. A combination of medications and self – care steps can help you to treat this condition.

Symptoms of Dermatitis

Each type of dermatitis may look a little different and tends to occur on different parts of your body. Here are the most common types:

  • Seborrheic dermatitis: This condition causes stubborn dandruff, red skin and scaly patches. This condition usually affects the oily areas of your body such as back, upper chest and face. The seborrheic dermatitis can be a long – term condition with periods of remission and flare – ups. Cradle cap is a term which is used for this condition in infants. [1]
  • Contact dermatitis: This rash occurs on the areas of the body which have come in contact with substances that cause an allergic reaction (such as essential oils, soap and poison ivy) or irritate the skin. The red rash may itch, sting or burn. Also blisters can develop. [2]
  • Atopic dermatitis (eczema): This condition usually begins in infancy. The red and itchy rash most commonly occur where the skin flexes – the front of the neck, behind the knees and inside the elbows. You should not scratch the rash because when it is scratched, then this rash can leak fluid and crust over. People who suffer from this type of dermatitis may experience improvements and then flare – ups. [3]

If you are distracted from your daily routines or you are uncomfortable that you are losing sleep or your skin becomes painful, then you should visit your doctor as soon as possible. If you suspect that your skin is infected and if you have tried self – care steps without success, then you should see your doctor.

Dermatitis: Symptoms, Causes,Risk factors and ComplicationsCauses of dermatitis

There are many irritants, genetic factors, allergies and health conditions which can cause different types of dermatitis:

  • Seborrheic dermatitis: This condition can be caused by yeast (which is a fungus) that is in the oil secretion of your skin. People with this condition may notice that this condition tends to come and go which depends on the season. [1]
  • Contact dermatitis: This type results from a direct contact with one of many allergens or irritants such as cosmetics, perfumes, cleaning products, jewelry containing nickel, poison ivy and even the preservatives in many lotions and creams. [2]
  • Atopic dermatitis (eczema): This type can be caused by a mix of factors such as environmental conditions, bacteria on the skin, an immune system dysfunction, a gene variation and dry skin. [3]

Risk factors: There are many factors which can increase your risk of developing certain types of dermatitis such as

  • Health conditions: You can have increased risk of getting seborrheic dermatitis if you have one of a number of conditions such as HIV, Parkinson’s disease and congestive heart failure. [4]
  • Occupation: Our jobs can put us in contact with some cleaning supplies, solvents and metals which can increase your risk of getting contact dermatitis. If you are a health care worker, then this can increase your risk of getting hand eczema.
  • Allergies and asthma: People who have a personal or family history of asthma, hay fever, allergies or eczema are having increased chances of getting atopic dermatitis. [5]
  • Age: Dermatitis can occur at any age. The eczema (atopic dermatitis) usually begins in infancy. [6]

Complications: If you scratch the itchy rash which is associated with dermatitis, then it can cause open sores and it can become infected. These skin infections can spread. They may very rarely become life – threatening conditions.


[1] Borda LJ, Wikramanayake TC. Seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff: A comprehensive review. Journal of Clinical and Investigative Dermatology. 2015;3(2):10.

[2] Martin SF, Rustemeyer T, Thyssen JP. Recent advances in understanding and managing contact dermatitis. F1000Res. 2018;7.

[3] Thomsen SF. Atopic dermatitis: Natural history, diagnosis, and treatment. International Scholarly Research Notices. 2014.

[4] Ippolito F, Passi S, Di Carlo A. Is seborrhoeic dermatitis a clinical marker of HIV disease? Minerva Ginecologica. 2000;52(12Suppl1):54-8.

[5] Kapur S, Watson W, Carr S. Atopic dermatitis. Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology. 2018;14(Suppl2).

[6] Foisy M, Boyle RJ, Chalmers JR, et al. Overview of Reviews The prevention of eczema in infants and children: an overview of Cochrane and non-Cochrane reviews. Evidence-Based Child Health. 2011;6(5):1322–39.


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