Dermatitis is a general term that covers a wide spectrum of different skin rashes. From an irritant as simple as laundry soap to a rash incurred by brushing up against a coral reef on a deep-sea dive, they all fall under the same category.
Broken down into basics, a rash is an abnormal reaction of the skin to a condition. That condition could be as simple as a diaper rash or be an indication of a more serious underlying disease. A rash can occur from stress, infection, plants, insects, allergies, or inflammation. It is a symptom and a primary cause.
A rash can happen to any culture, population or age group. It can appear quickly and disappear just as fast. It can happen fast and furious or take a long time to appear on the surface of the skin.
It accompanies childhood infections, infestation of parasites, such as head lice, and chronic illnesses. It can be an escort for menopause, Lyme disease or methamphetamine abuse. It can be a clanging alarm alerting the doctor of diabetes, meningitis or toxic shock syndrome in women.
Categories of Rashes
However, broadly speaking, there are five subcategories that may help diagnosis and treat a skin rash.
Atopic dermatitis, commonly known as eczema, which is a chronic itchy rash that is sporadic in nature.
Neurodermatitis, a rash caused by irritants such as detergent or an allergy-inducing substance like poison oak.
Perioral dermatitis occurs mainly around the mouth as a bumpy, red rash. Seborrheic dermatitis, a common rash that appear on the face and scalp. It is the root cause of dandruff of the scalp.
Stasis dermatitis, a rash caused by buildup of fluid under the skin, primarily on the legs.
While many professionals say that dermatitis is not a life-threatening or contagious disease, it is scant comfort when all you can think about is scratching and finding relief from a rash that can keep you from focusing on anything else. Many forms of dermatitis can share the same characteristics and make them difficult to diagnosis.
Common symptoms include
- Itching, often the primary complaint of a skin rash.
- Skin lesions, white, red or oozing bumps that may feel prickly, hot or uncomfortable.
- Swelling, which can make skin feel tight, tender and sensitive to clothing.
If that were not confusing enough when trying to find a solution for an inflammatory rash, irritants that cause the initial outbreak often categorize dermatitis. The following section combines both categorizations of a rash along with simple treatment options.
Allergic dermatitis (Neurodermatitis)
This condition is rather straightforward in its causal origin. It is a rash that develops with allergies. It can take on any appearance, white or red, bumpy or smooth, dots, and spots or appear over a large area. The number one symptom is itching.
It can greatly affect individuals who suffer from asthma or hay fever and can actually be a genetic predisposition handed down through a family line. It usually starts in infancy, peaking in the childhood or teenage years, and then abating as an individual reaches maturity.
It is nearly impossible to become allergic to these substances as an adult if there is no evidence of an infancy or childhood onset. Allergic dermatitis is attributed to a breakdown in either autoimmune deficiency or genetic predisposition.
Contact dermatitis (Neurodermatitis)
This is a condition that is an allergic outcome to common factors such as soap, detergent, chemical cleaning products, metal, perfumes, dyes and cosmetics. Even some antibiotic creams can cause a contact dermatitis because of the ingredients in the product. This is another form of neurodermatitis that can take on almost any form and is again characterized by itching as the primary symptom.
An allergic reaction to a product will cause contact dermatitis to flare significantly faster than contact with a chemical or substance that builds up over time. Exposure to poison oak or poison ivy falls in this category because it is the contact with the plant that causes irritation to the skin.
Simple Treatment Options
- Antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications
- Covering the affected area to prevent scratching.
- Hydrocortisone or steroidal lotions and creams
- Wet compresses
Eczematic Dermatitis (Atopic)
This dermatitis has an underlying condition that causes the rash to appear. Eczema, psoriasis, a chronic irritation or dry skin are the common culprits in this category of dermatitis. The outbreak is generally confined to the extremities or limbs, such as the ankles, arm or forearm, wrist and the nape of the neck.
On rare occasion, it will appear on the torso but it is highly uncommon. Its main symptom is itching, which is worse at night. The developing rash is red, patchy and can develop fluid-filled sores that ooze or crust over. Or it can exhibit a scaly, dry, rough skin texture that may toughen over time from constant scratching.
Simple Treatment Methods
- Healling infection prone cracks in the skin
- Mild astringents with wet dressings>
- Light therapy
Glandular dermatitis (Seborrheic)
This condition is caused by an overproduction of oil by the sebaceous glands. It produces a red rash, with yellow or white flakes and scales. It occurs most often on the scalp and is common for people with oily skin or hair. It can be a seasonal affliction when a systemic flare up of symptoms is caused by factors of the different seasons. Possible external causes may be neurological afflictions such as Parkinson’s disease, travel and stress. Infants can suffer a form of this dermatitis known as “cradle cap.”
Simple Treatment Methods
Medicated shampoos containing tar, salicylic acid, pyrithione zinc and ketaconzaole
Hydrocortisone creams for non-scalp eruptions
Circulatory dermatitis (Stasis)
This form of dermatitis is caused by an accumulation of fluid in subcutaneous tissues of the legs. It is caused by a slow return of blood to the heart from the leg veins.
The extra edema in the tissue affects the body’s ability to moisturize and nourish the skin and places extra pressure on the skin itself. Known causes of this dermatitis are varicose veins, chronic infections and poor circulation. It can present itself with swelling in the legs, itching, thin skin, open sores, discoloration of the skin resulting in reddish brown discoloration or violet-colored lesions.
Simple Treatment Methods
- Elastic support hose
- Varicose vein surgery
- Wet dressings for infection control
Oral Dermatitis (Perioral Dermatitis)
This form of dermatitis is centered around the nose and mouth. It is characterized by a rash that is red, and slightly bumpy. It is one of the few rashes has only mild itching or burning associated with it. However, it can spread up to the eyes if rubbed and then transferred to the eyes. It occurs most frequently in women and may come and go for a long time.
Simple Treatment Methods
- A mild corticosteroid cream
- Limit tartar toothpaste use to once a day
Homeopathic and Home Remedies
Many mild rashes can be helped by simple solutions. Cold compresses or washes can alleviate the redness, tenderness and inflammation of the rash. A simple paste of baking soda and water can be applied to the affected area for relief of itchiness.
Aromatherapy & Oils
Aromatherapy can be extremely effective in the lessening of rash symptoms. One of the best conduits for essential oils is a salve that already contains comfrey or calendula. On the other hand, you can use a base cream of non-toxic glycerin and aloe vera and mix 15 drops of essential oil into one ounce of salve. Mix and apply to the affected area.
Essential oils that have been shown to be beneficial are birch, chamomile, lavender, peppermint (for itching), rosemary, tea tree. Tea tree is very effective as an antiseptic bringing relief to those sufferers of eczema and other secondary skin infections.
Additional Home Remedies
Other home remedies include applications of chamomile, evening primrose oil or doses of cold-pressed flaxseed oil. Try a crush of vitamin C tablets and water directly on skin. This may cure many rashes because of the vitamin’s antioxidant properties.
Bach Flower Remedies has a cream that contains essences of Clematis, Impatiens, Rock Rose, Star of Bethlehem, Cherry Plum & Crap Apple. It is an excellent cream for mild rashes, razor burns and diaper rash.
Acupuncture has also been proven highly effective at treating underlying conditions that may cause a rash. There are protocols and techniques that have brought substantial alleviation of dermatitis and the skin eruptions that accompany it.
Acupuncture may provide immediate relief from itchy, hot skin built up by a histamine reaction. Since acupuncture treats the root cause of a rash, over time the manifestation of skin conditions can abate entirely.
Any of these forms of dermatitis can be a sign of an underlying disease. Meningitis, diabetes, chicken pox, measles, toxic shock syndrome, menopause and rheumatoid arthritis are all conditions where individuals can suffer an irritating rash.
Other complications can arise as the result of a dermatitis outbreak. Impetigo is open sores and fissures that can become infected. Cellulitis is red streaks that appear on your skin and are warm, red and tender to touch. Both of these complications indicate an underlying bacterial infection and a doctor should be seen as soon as possible. Scarring, scaling and skin thickening can also be long-term effects of a skin rash.
When to See the Doctor
There are times when a rash is painfully severe or the complications so uncomfortable that it is best to seek medical attention. If your skin is painful to the touch, infected, or you are miserable to a point that you cannot perform activities of daily living or you are losing sleep, see your doctor.
Your doctor will either treat you for the condition or refer you to a specialist known as a dermatologist. An expert medical opinion will consider triggers, options, treatments and tests to determine the best course of action.
Visting the Doctor
The doctor will take a complete history, noting allergies, types of laundry products, cosmetics and lifestyle is ascertaining the cause of the skin condition. It is helpful for you to take a list of anything that may prove to be relevant in your everyday life, work environment and hobbies. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The more informed you are the better choices you will make.
The resulting diagnosis will lend itself to the proper treatment for your type of dermatitis. The doctor will probably tell you to continue the wet dressings and cold compresses at home. He may add a prescription strength hydrocortisone or steroidal cream. He may prescribe anti-anxiety or Immunomodulator drugs, a non-steroid medication.
The costs for dermatitis control and eradication can be expensive if there is a long-term or chronic element in the equation. Nominally, the costs of over-the-counter creams, lotions and soaps will not be prohibitive especially if they are replacing a more inflammatory product that you previously used.
The highest cost of dermatitis therapy will be the cost of the initial doctor visit and the subsequent follow-up, especially if patch tests are employed to determine the cause of a rash. Acupuncture sessions can run anywhere from $50.00 to $250.00 per session depending on the location and the technique used in treatment. Homeopathic treatments, lotions and creams will cost about the same as other over-the-counter salves and ointments.
To help avoid skin irritations in the future, there are simple rules that can be followed.
Eliminate trigger elements. Wear gloves when performing household chores and handling products with chemical irritants. Change personal and cleaning products to non-toxic and organic cleaners, cosmetics and hair care supplies. There are several great products on the market today for both home and personal use.
Eliminate soap. Soap is a drying agent and can aggravate skin irritations and rashes. Use a pure glycerin or shea butter product for bathing and hand washing.
Use colloidal oatmeal in a cool or warm bath. This is a soothing relief for hot, swollen, itchy skin.
Lotions & Scratching
Use traditional lotions such as Calamine. These products have been used for years for their cooling effects and can have a high success rate.
Do not scratch. If the temptation is too great, wear comfortable, thin cotton gloves, especially at night. The gloves will prevent any possible infection from microscopic bacteria under the fingernails.
Apply cool, wet compresses. You can add a couple of drops of lavender or tea tree oil to the compress for added relief.
Sunscreen and Moisturizing
Use sunscreen. Extreme heat and sweating can make your rash seem ten times worse than it is. Take cool showers and exercise in the evening,
Bath less often. Too much bathing can actually dry out the skin, leaving it prone to scaling, flaking or cracking. Dry off completely, patting your self dry with a towel.
Moisturize your skin. Products like Aveeno and Eucerin carry a line that combats elements that cause dermatitis. Use natural products made only of shea butter for lubricating the skin.
Avoid processed foods that can contain additives and preservatives that can aggravate your rash. Wash all organic food before eating or food preparation.
Up your water intake. This can help nourish the skin and flush out toxins. Increase your portions of foods high in Omega-3s. These foods contain properties that help heal the skin.
Rashes are an inconvenient truth in every person’s life. Almost of all of us will experience a rash sometime in our life. With the tips presented here, you have a very good chance of alleviating the itchy, swelling purgatory of a person who only wants to scratch.