Dermatitis describes several skin conditions that cause inflamed and irritated skin. The exact treatment approach depends on the cause and type of dermatitis but generally the condition is managed in the following ways:
Topical steroid agents
Locally applied steroid creams or gels are useful in treating allergic contact dermatitis and atopic dermatitis. Steroids such asmometasone, clobetasol, betamethasone, hydrocortisone help to suppress local inflammation and prevent symptoms from flaring up. However, a specialist in dermatology needs to advise over duration of use, as prolonged steroid treatment can lead to serious complications such as thinning of the skin and altered local immune reactions.
Moisturizers and emollients are useful in treating atopic dermatitis as they help prevent drying and cracking of the skin. Products such as calamine lotion may also ease itching and soothe the skin.
Itching, swelling and redness of the skin caused by allergy may be relieved using antihistaminic medications such as diphenhydramine and cetirizine. These are available over the counter in the form of tablets.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen, diclofenac, and aspirin can be taken to ease any pain associated with dermatitis and can be either prescribed or bought over the counter.
Avoiding the factors that seem to cause the dermatitis is an important approach to preventing flare-ups of the condition. Clothes made of cotton and worn loosely can help to avoid skin irritation. Any cleansing soaps used should be mild and not scented to avoid skin irritation. Jewellery and cosmetics also need to be checked carefully in case they are known to irritate skin.
Seborrheic dermatitis can be treated using anti-dandruff shampoo. Most of these contain an antifungal agent such as ketoconazole as well as other chemicals such as sulphur, selenium, zinc pyrithione, tar and salicylic acid.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc