Knowing the basics of dermatitis and eczema

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Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, can irritate skin all over the body. It is almost always itchy and often leaves the skin feeling dry, rough, flaky and extremely uncomfortable.

Q: Is there a difference between dermatitis and eczema?

The word "eczema" has a few meanings. It is a general term that means a family of skin conditions that causes the skin to become inflamed, swollen, irritated and itchy. Dermatitis is any irritation or inflammation of the skin.

Q: What are the symptoms of eczema?

A: While eczema can look different from person to person, everyone shares one common symptom. The skin itches.

  1. Are there different types of dermatitis and eczema?

A: There are many types of eczema depending on the location of the condition. Here's a brief description:

  • Hand eczema: Might first appear as dry chapped hands and later develop into patches of red, scaly, itchy and inflamed skin, or even blisters.
  • Contact dermatitis: Occurs from contact with everyday things such as food, jewelry or shampoos. It might be an immediate direct irritant or a delayed allergic rash.
  • Dyshidrotic dermatitis: Occurs only on the palms of the hands, sides of the fingers and soles of the feet. This common eczema typically causes a burning or itching sensation and a blistering rash.
  • Neurodermatitis: Occurs when nerve endings in the skin become irritated, triggering a severe itch-scratch-itch cycle. Common causes of nerve irritation include insect bites and emotional stress.
  • Nummular dermatitis: The hallmark of this common eczema is unique, coin-shaped or oval lesions. It often does not itch.
  • Occupational dermatitis: This is not one specific type of eczema, but rather any type of eczema caused by things in a person's workplace.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis: Occurs on the scalp as oily, waxy patches, this common type of rash sometimes spreads to the face and beyond. Dandruff and "cradle cap" fall under this classification.
  • Stasis Dermatitis: Occurs in the lower legs. This is also common. A rash occurs when circulation becomes sluggish. Poor blood flow causes fluids to build up, and the legs swell.

Over time, this build-up of fluids affects the skin, causing a rash that sometimes itches and may have painful sores and discolored skin.

Q: Is eczema curable?

A: No, but it can be treated. You should see a dermatologist for treatment and follow the recommended skin care practices.

If you have questions or concerns or want to seek treatment for eczema or any type of skin rash, call a dermatologist.

Dr. Oswald Lightsey Mikell, certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, is the owner of Dermatology Associates of the Lowcountry.

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