April 01, 2021

Dermatitis

Differentiating the types

The skin on your arm is red, itchy and driving you crazy. You can't help but scratch. Why is it itching so much? How can you get it to stop?

You may be experiencing dermatitis, a general term that describes skin inflammation. Dermatitis is a common condition with many causes and occurs in many forms. It often involves dry, itchy skin and rashes. Dermatitis isn't contagious, but it can make you feel uncomfortable and self-conscious.

Although most types of dermatitis look irritated and scaly, subtle differences can help determine which type you have. Learn more about some of these different types below. Before jumping in, it's helpful to know that dermatitis is commonly called eczema, but the term "eczema" sometimes specifically refers to the form called atopic dermatitis. Dermatitis usually includes "redness," but the shade varies depending on skin color. It can look pink on very light skin and dark brown, purple or gray on darker skin.

Treatment options

No two cases of dermatitis are alike. Your health care provider can recommend a treatment plan appropriate for your particular situation. Treatment may include:

  • Creams, ointments and shampoos — Moisturizers, topical corticosteroids and antibiotics, as well as certain medications — such as calcineurin inhibitors — that affect your immune system, can help reduce inflammation and itching and fight infection. You can also try nonprescription dandruff shampoos.
  • Manage your stress — Emotional stressors can cause some types of dermatitis to flare. Consider trying stress management techniques such...