Dermatitis is a general term that describes an inflammation of the skin. Although dermatitis can have many causes and occurs in many forms, this disorder usually involves an itchy rash on swollen, reddened skin.
Skin affected by dermatitis may blister, ooze, develop a crust or flake off. Examples of dermatitis include atopic dermatitis (eczema), dandruff, and rashes caused by contact with poison ivy or certain metals.
Dermatitis is a common condition that usually isn't life-threatening or contagious. Even so, it can make you feel uncomfortable and self-conscious. A combination of self-care steps and medications can help you treat dermatitis.
Each type of dermatitis may look a little different and may tend to occur on different parts of your body. The most common types of dermatitis include:
When to see a doctor
Contact dermatitis on the wrist
Contact dermatitis can appear as an itchy, red rash. In this photo, the irritation is likely due to a watchband or to soap residue trapped beneath the band. ...
Seborrheic dermatitis on the face
Seborrheic dermatitis causes a red rash with yellowish and somewhat "oily" scales. In addition to the scalp, seborrheic dermatitis can occur on the sides of the nose, in and between the ...
Atopic dermatitis can cause small, red bumps, which can be very itchy. When scratched, the bumps may leak fluid and crust over. Atopic dermatitis most often occurs where your skin flexes — ...
A number of health conditions, allergies, genetic factors and irritants can cause different types of dermatitis:
A number of factors can increase your risk of developing certain types of dermatitis. Examples include:
Scratching the itchy rash associated with dermatitis can cause open sores, which may become infected. These skin infections can spread and may, very rarely, become life-threatening.
Preparing for your appointment
You'll probably first bring your concerns to the attention of your family doctor. He or she might refer you to a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of skin conditions (dermatologist).
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and know what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Your doctor may diagnose dermatitis after talking to you about your signs and symptoms and examining your skin.
Positive reaction to allergy test
A small area of swelling with surrounding redness is typical of a positive patch skin test for allergy. ...
Treatments and drugs
Dermatitis treatment varies, depending on the cause. Using corticosteroid creams, applying wet compresses and avoiding irritants are the cornerstones of most dermatitis treatment plans. Light therapy, which involves exposing your skin to controlled amounts of natural or artificial light, also may be used in some cases.
Lifestyle and home remedies
These steps can help you manage dermatitis:
A number of natural options have been studied as possible treatments for dermatitis, including:
Avoiding dry skin may be one factor in helping you prevent future bouts of dermatitis. These tips can help you minimize the drying effects of bathing on your skin:
Last Updated: 2013-06-29
© 1998-2014 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use only. "Mayo," "Mayo Clinic," "MayoClinic.com," "Mayo Clinic Health Information," "Reliable information for a healthier life" and the triple-shield Mayo logo are trademarks of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.
Terms and conditions of use