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Dermatitis is a family of related skin conditions that cause similar symptoms, including an itchy, red, scaly rash. Atopic dermatitis (or eczema) is the most common type of dermatitis. Other relatively common types include:
Because the rash caused by dermatitis can be very itchy, it’s tempting to rub or scratch the affected areas; however, irritated skin also tends to be more fragile, making the area more prone to bleeding and even infection.
No, dermatitis cannot be spread or passed from one person to another through direct contact or by touching objects that have been touched or handled by people with dermatitis.
Contact dermatitis is a type of dermatitis that develops as a result of direct contact with an irritating substance or object. Poison ivy reactions are one common type of contact dermatitis reaction, and so are allergies to certain metals, including metal jewelry.
In most cases, dermatitis can be diagnosed with a physical evaluation combined with a patient medical history and a review of specific symptoms or events leading up to symptom development. People with immune-related disorders, asthma and allergies are more prone to dermatitis, so it’s important to let the doctor know if you have any of these conditions. In very few cases, a small skin sample (biopsy) may be taken for further evaluation to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other issues that might cause similar symptoms.
Dermatitis treatment will depend on the type of dermatitis that’s occurring. Most types of dermatitis are caused by specific triggers, like irritating chemicals in shampoos, soaps or detergents or from excessively dry skin, and some mild symptoms can be remedied by avoiding triggers or treating issues like dry skin with special moisturizers and changes in your skincare routine. More severe acute reactions can be treated with topical or oral medications to relieve symptoms. Chronic conditions like seborrheic dermatitis often respond well to ongoing treatments with special shampoos or other prescription products to reduce skin irritation.