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Dermatitis is a general term that means inflammation of the skin. Dermatitis is generally accompanied by erythema (redness), pruritus (itching), edema (swelling) and/or pain. While there are many types of dermatitis, three of the most common types of dermatitis are described below.

Common Types of Dermatitis

Atopic Dermatitis
Atopic Dermatitis (eczema)

A form of dermatitis that often has scaling or flaking, redness and itching. Atopic Dermatitis is often hereditary, but the original cause is not well known. It can be triggered by environmental irritants, reactions to perfumes or personal care products, stress and other factors. It occurs in both adults and children - even infants. Left untreated, eczema becomes increasingly irritating or uncomfortable to the patient, causing them to scratch more -- which leads to more itching -- and even more scratching. This escalating "itch-scratch" cycle can lead to greater skin breakdown and possibly infection.

Contact dermatitis
Contact dermatitis

A skin irritation which is caused by irritants such as detergents, chemicals or friction, or by allergies to substances such as perfume, poison ivy, nickel, latex or certain personal care products.

Nummular Dermatitis
Nummular Dermatitis

A name used to describe a tenacious, itchy, coin shaped rash. This condition is associated with dry weather and sometimes heaters (since they can dry out the air). Nummular Dermatitis is commonly seen in patients 60 years and older.

Stasis Dermatitis
Stasis Dermatitis

A skin irritation occurring in the lower extremities of older people. Caused by a slowing of circulation in the legs.


Consult your physician for recommended treatment. Treatment of dermatitis generally includes:

Moisturizing - Using lotions or creams to moisturize the skin.

Eliminations - Eliminating any irritants or allergens that may cause or enhance the condition.

Medications - Use of anti-inflammatory creams, ointments or gels to reduce the inflammation and itch. One of the most widely used category of products is hydrocortisone cream; over-the-counter products utilize 1% or lower hydrocortisone, while prescription products such as Novacort™ utilize 2%-2.5% hydrocortisone or hydrocortisone in combination with other active ingredients. Higher potency steroids and immuno-modulator drugs are also sometimes used.

Extra Active Ingredients - Some medications, and particularly Novacort, include a local anesthetic such as pramoxine or lidocaine. These extra ingredients are generally safe and provide extra patient comfort beyond what the hydrocortisone alone would provide. This helps break the "itch-scratch" cycle to prevent further complications. They also may help delay or reduce the need to use higher potency steroids.

Medication Potency - Topical steroids are ranked according to potency of the active ingredient. The higher potency medications are more effective. However, physicians concerned with the thin skinned patients (older patients) and surface area covered (babies and small children) may decide to prescribe a lower potency steroid.

More Information - For more information about dermatitis from the American Academy of Dermatologists, please click here: AAD

Or visit one of these sites for more information: Mayo Clinic WebMD