What causes dermatitis?

There are two major types of contact dermatitis: first, an allergic reaction to a common household or environmental substance, and, second, an inflammatory reaction to a harsh chemical irritant.

Causes of contact dermatitis

Substances that can cause contact dermatitis include:

  • Fabrics
  • Household chemicals such as soaps, cosmetic ingredients, cleaning products
  • Industrial or workplace chemicals
  • Metals (especially nickel)
  • Plants

Causes of atopic dermatitis

The causes of atopic dermatitis are not well understood. This condition results as a unique combination of three factors: first, environmental influences, such as irritants and potential allergens; second, your immune system and, in particular, your immune system’s sensitivity to irritants in the environment; and, third, your family history of atopic dermatitis. Some common triggers that can induce atopic dermatitis include:

  • Cold weather and dry air
  • Excessive washing of the skin
  • Exposure to fumes or harsh chemicals, such as alkaline materials, solvents, or acids
  • Exposure to household irritants, such as certain soaps, detergents, fabrics, and cleaning products
  • Sudden temperature changes (hot to cold or the reverse)
  • Wool sensitivity

What are the risk factors for dermatitis?

A number of factors increase the risk of developing dermatitis. Not all people with risk factors will get dermatitis. Risk factors for dermatitis include:

  • Family history of dermatitis (specifically, atopic dermatitis)
  • Individual allergen sensitivity
  • Working or living in an environment that exposes you to your particular triggers

Reducing your risk of dermatitis

You may be able to lower your risk of dermatitis by:

  • Avoiding excessive skin washing
  • Avoiding the use of harsh chemicals
  • Identifying and avoiding your specific allergens or irritants
  • Managing stress
  • Protecting yourself from temperature extremes, especially extreme cold
  • Using a humidifier


What is dermatitis?

Dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin that can take several forms. The most common form is atopic dermatitis, seen most often in infants during the first year of life; this is sometimes referred to as eczema, dermatitis, or atopy. Atopic dermatitis most often manifests as itchy, dry scaly patches, usually on the cheeks, as well as on the scalp, forehead, and the rest of the face. In older c... Read more about dermatitisintroduction


What are the symptoms of dermatitis?

Symptoms of contact dermatitis and atopic dermatitis are similar. Contact dermatitis manifests as a red, scaly itchy rash anywhere on the skin that was exposed to the offending substance. In moderate to severe cases, you may also develop blisters filled with clear liquid. Some people develop hives, for which you should seek prompt medical care.

Dermatitis is seldom life threatenin... Read more about dermatitissymptoms


How is dermatitis treated?

The first step in treating contact dermatitis is to wash the area with water to get rid of all traces of the irritant. Sometimes it is best to do nothing more because even low-strength, over-the-counter products can worsen the condition. You may be able to reduce your itching with wet dressings, drying lotions, or anti-itch (antipruritic) creams or lotions. In cases of inflammation, corticoster... Read more about dermatitistreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Skin, Hair and Nails

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