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Dermatitis

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Dermatitis, also known as eczema, is a skin irritation characterized by red, flaky skin, sometimes with cracks or tiny blisters. Dermatitis is extremely itchy, but scratching damages the fragile skin and exacerbates the problem so it is important to leave the area alone.

There are several causes of dermatitis, but the most common ones are related to allergies. Atopic eczema, the most common, is caused by general systemic allergic reactions, as opposed to contact with an irritant. It is very common in people with related allergic conditions, including asthma or chronic hay fever[?]. Allergic contact dermatitis, as the name implies, is the result of direct contact with an irritant. One of the most common causes of this form are buttons and rivets in jeans, which contain nickel. Irritant contact dermatitis is similar but is caused by a reaction to some chemical substance, often unrinsed detergents left on clothing or various household chemicals being handled. Stress and anxiety often make otherwise minor outbreaks spread.

Several other forms appear unrelated to the main allergic causes. Infantile seborrhoeic eczema, also known as cradle cap, forms on the head and quickly spreads. It looks like normal dermatitis, but apparently doesn't itch and eventually goes away on it's own. Varicose eczema occurs later in life, the result of poor circulation in the legs. Finally discoid eczema suddenly appears as small disk shaped spots of severe dermatitis, but disappear on their own.

Dermatitis is often treated with prescribed cortisone creams and lotions, but these must be used sparingly as they cause the skin to become thinner and more fragile with long-term use. Dermatitis severely dries out the skin, and keeping the affected area moistened with vitamin A, D and/or E can promote healing and retain natural moisture. Other than direct treatments of the symptoms, no "cure" for dermatitis is known, and even cortisone treatments often have only minor effects on the problem.



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