You might know that the symptoms of dermatitis include itchiness, rash, inflammation and dry skin, but is it characterised as a disease?
The answer, simply, is yes, dermatitis is a disease of the skin. But of course, it’s a bit more complicated than that, because it all depends on what you mean by disease.
Here’s some facts that might help clarify the situation!
Dermatitis is not one disease
‘Dermatitis’ is a bit of a catch-all term for skin irritation, so it’s true to say that it is not one disease, but a group of conditions. Its variants include contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, stasis or venous dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, neuropathic dermatitis, perioral dermatitis and others. Symptoms of these different types of dermatitis can manifest in all kinds of ways, from rashes to dry skin, pustules to inflammation.
Dermatitis is not a viral infection
Dermatitis isn’t contagious; you can’t catch it or pass it on to anyone else. It’s not like viruses that can have symptoms that affect the skin, in the way that measles causes skin rashes or chicken pox causes blisters.
Dermatitis is not a bacterial infection
Although eczema and contact dermatitis can both be complicated by bacterial skin infections (like staph or strep), dermatitis itself isn’t caused by bacteria; it’s the damage the condition causes that make skin vulnerable to infection.
Atopic dermatitis is an autoimmune disease
At least one form of dermatitis - the atopic variety, also known as eczema - has been shown to be an autoimmune disease, which means it involves the body’s immune system attacking itself.
Atopic dermatitis is a chronic condition
Unlike its more transitory cousin, contact dermatitis, the atopic form of the disease is a life-long condition that means sufferers are born with a predisposition towards dry, sensitive skin and have to find strategies for managing their eczema, rather than curing it.
How to manage dermatitis
First of all, if you think something you’ve touched has triggered a flare-up of dermatitis, you’ll need to identify the culprit and avoid it! You may be reacting to your watch strap, earrings, laundry detergent, shampoo, perfume, household cleaners, industrial chemicals, dust, plants or even the hard water in your tap! It’s not an easy task, so do ask your doctor for help, or consult the information given about contact dermatitis by the National Eczema Society.
Often a case of dermatitis will resolve itself within a week or so; if it persists longer than 3 weeks or is getting worse, get an appointment to see your doctor. They may be able to give you antihistamines, steroid creams (for short-term use), or suggestion other lines of treatment.
In the meantime, you will need to do all you can soothe the inflammation, protect any broken skin, and help it repair itself. This is usually done with rich and protective emollients, which are designed to keep moisture in the skin and prevent any further damage being done.
We’d recommend Skin Salvation or Daily Moisturising Cream as excellent, non-irritant, natural emollients to keep skin affected by dermatitis moisturised, nourished and protected. Our Intensive Hand Cream can also help moisturise hands suffering from contact dermatitis.
Skin Salvation balm with beeswax, hemp & chamomile (from £7.99 for 30ml)
Balmonds Daily Moisturising Cream with shea butter, hemp & calendula (from £13.99 for 100ml)
Balmonds Intensive Hand Cream with sea buckthorn berry & hemp seed oil (from £10.99 for 50ml)
If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.
If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.
Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.