Things this article seeks to address are;

  • What is dermatitis?
  • What are the types of dermatitis?
  • What are the signs and symptoms of dermatitis?
  • Treatment for dermatitis.
  • Ways to prevent dermatitis.



Dermatitis is a group of diseases that results in inflammation of the skin. These diseases are characterized by itchiness, redness of the skin and rashes development. In cases of short duration there may be small blisters while in long-term cases the skin may become thickened. The area of skin involved can vary from small to the entire body.

Types Of Dermatitis:

Atopic dermatitis.

Allergic contact dermatitis.

Seborrheic dermatitis.

Stasis dermatitis.


The exact cause of dermatitis is often unclear. Cases are believed to often involve a combination of irritation, allergy, and poor venous return. Allergic contact dermatitis, however, can occur following brief exposures to substances a person is sensitive to.

Treatment of dermatitis is dependent on the type but generally, these disease conditions can be treated using steroid creams and moisturizers, antibiotic in the case of an infection, antihistamines which help to alleviate the itchy condition and avoidance of irritants.

Signs and Symptoms

Depending on the type of dermatitis and the cause, the signs and symptoms, generally, include the following;

Itching, pain, stinging, or burning

Blisters, thick or scaly skin, sores from scratching

Swelling, redness

Causes of Dermatitis:

Contact dermatitis; Caused by allergic reactions (for example, to poison oak or ivy, or soaps, or detergents).

Atopic dermatitis (eczema): Exact cause is unknown, but may be due to a combination of dry skin and an autoimmune reaction. People who have eczema often have other allergies.

Seborrheic Dermatitis; this is a form of dermatitis that results from hormonal changes that affect the sebaceous glands. This consists of greasy, yellowish and reddish, scaly skin on the scalp as well as other skin creases such as face and genital areas.

Stasis Dermatitis; this is a form of dermatitis that is formed as a result of poor blood circulation. This mostly occurs in people with varicose veins and congestive heart failure. This leads to pooling of the blood in the lower legs, causing irritation, especially, around the ankles

Diagnostic measures by health care giver;

Your health care provider will try to determine the cause of your dermatitis and make sure you have dermatitis and not a similar disease, such as psoriasis, skin cancer, or some psychological conditions. They may be able to make a diagnosis by examining you, or by doing a patch test to see what substances you might be allergic to.

Treatment Options

Treatment varies depending on the type of dermatitis.

Drug Therapies

Hydrocortisone creams, to reduce redness and itching in contact dermatitis and eczema.

Medicated shampoos to relieve seborrheic dermatitis

Antihistamines, to relieve itching associated with eczema.

Topical calcineurin inhibitors (TCIs), such as pimecrolimus (Elidel) and tacrolimus (Protopic), may be used to treat eczema. These drugs help suppress an overactive immune system.

Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat skin infections.

Emollient creams to hydrate dry skin.


Complementary and Alternative Therapies

There are several complementary and alternative therapies (CAM) and strategies that can help treat dermatitis. For example, many people with eczema have food allergies, so eating a healthy diet may help reduce inflammation and allergic reactions. Dermatitis associated with stress and anxiety may improve with mind-body techniques, such as meditation, tai chi, yoga, and stress management. If you are pregnant, or thinking of becoming pregnant, do not use any CAM therapies unless you have been directed to do so by your healthcare giver.


Avoid exposure to environmental or food allergens. Common foods that cause allergic reactions are dairy, soy, citrus, peanuts, wheat (and sometimes all gluten-containing grains), fish, eggs, corn, and tomatoes.

Eat fewer saturated fats (meats, especially poultry, and dairy), refined foods, and sugar. These foods contribute to inflammation in the body.

Eat more fresh vegetables, whole grains, and essential fatty acids (cold-water fish, nuts, and seeds).

Fish oil: In one study, people taking fish oil equal to 1.8 g of EPA (one of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil) had significant reduction in symptoms of eczema after 12 weeks. Researchers think that may be because fish oil helps reduce leukotriene B4, an inflammatory substance that plays a role in eczema. If you take anticoagulants (blood-thinning medications), talk to your healthcare personnel before taking fish oil. If you are taking high-dose fish oil, make sure you use a brand that removes most of the vitamin A. Too much vitamin A over time can be toxic. The dose used in this study is very high; speak with your healthcare giver to find the right dosage for you.

Probiotics (bifidobacteria and lactobacillus) may boost the immune system and control allergies, especially in children. In fact, studies show that taking probiotics during pregnancy, or early infancy, can protect against the development of dermatitis. However, the scientific studies are mixed. More research is needed to know for sure if probiotics will help reduce eczema symptoms. People with severely weakened immune systems should speak with their doctors before taking probiotics.

Evening primrose oil: In some studies, evening primrose oil helps reduce the itching associated with eczema. However, other studies have found no benefit. People who take anticoagulants (blood thinners) should talk to their doctor before taking evening primrose oil. Use caution if you have a history of seizures or schizophrenia.

Borage oil; like evening primrose oil, contains the essential fatty acid GLA, which acts as an anti-inflammatory. Evidence is mixed, with some studies showing that GLA helps reduce eczema symptoms and others showing no effect. People who take anticoagulants (blood thinners) should talk to their healthcare professionals before taking evening primrose oil. People who have a history of liver problems should talk to their healthcare professionals before taking borage oil.

Vitamin C; can act as an antihistamine. In one study, it helped reduce symptoms of eczema, but more studies are needed. Rose hips or palmitate are citrus free and hypoallergenic.

Bromelain; an enzyme derived from pineapple, helps reduce inflammation. Bromelain can have a blood-thinning effect. Talk to your doctor if you are taking blood-thinning medications.

Flavonoids; antioxidants found in dark berries and some plants, have anti-inflammatory properties, strengthen connective tissue, and may help reduce allergic reactions. The following flavonoids may be taken in dried extract form: Catechin, quercetin, hesperidin, and rutin.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D is known to help boost immune system thus enhancing body defence system. In one study, researchers linked Vitamin D deficiency with an increased risk of food allergies and dermatitis.


The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care provider. Always tell your doctor about any herbs you may be taking. When applying herbs to the skin it is important to make sure that you have no open wounds as serious infection can result.


Topical creams and salves containing one or more of the following herbs may help relieve itching and burning, and promote healing. The best evidence is for chamomile (Matricaria recutita). Chickweed (Stellaria media), marigold (Calendula officinalis), and licorice (Glycyrrhia glabra) may be helpful, although there is little scientific evidence to support the benefits. One study did find a licorice cream was more effective than placebo.

Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) cream can relieve itching. Liquid witch hazel can help with “weeping” or oozing dermatitis.

St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), used as a topical cream, has shown promise in one double blind study. People with eczema who used St. John’s wort on one arm and a placebo cream on the other saw more improvement with the arm treated with St. John’s wort.

Other herbs that have traditionally been applied to the skin to treat dermatitis include Sarsaparilla (Smilax sp.) and marshmallow (Althea officinalis).


Although few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic therapies. Professional homeopaths may consider the following remedies for the treatment of dermatitis based on their knowledge and experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person’s constitutional type, includes your physical, emotional, and psychological makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate treatment for each individual.


Antimonium crudum for cracked skin

Apis mellifica for hot swollen vesicles

Rhus toxicodendron; for intense itching and burning

Sulphur;for intense burning and itching with scaling skin.

Urtica urens; for burning stinging pains


Following Up

Carefully avoid any substance that causes a skin reaction. Prevent infection and scarring by not scratching.

If your skin becomes infected, see your doctor right away, especially if you notice red streaks on your skin. That could be a sign of cellulitis, which can be life threatening for some people.


Special Considerations/ General Advice

In the case of contact dermatitis, it is advisable to always limit the use of chemicals or wear protective materials in order to avoid the disease.

Check with your healthcare professionals before using any medication if you are pregnant or nursing a baby.

Some evidence suggests that breastfed children are less likely to develop eczema.

Studies show that psychological treatment of atopic dermatitis can reduce anxiety and decrease the amount of medication needed to control the disease.


Supporting Research/Reference

  • Abrahamsson TR, Jakobsson T, Bottcher MF, et al. Probiotics in prevention of IgE-associated eczema: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2007;119:1174-80.
  • Baek JH, Shin YH, Chung IH, et al. ‘the link between serum vitamin D level, sensitization to food allergens, and the severity of atopic dermatitis in infancy’. J Pediatr. 2014;165(4):849-54.e1.
  • Betsi GI, Papadavid E, Falagas ME. Probiotics for the treatment or prevention of atopic dermatitis: a review of the evidence from randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2008;9:93-103.
  • Boneberger S, Rupec RA, Ruzicka T. Complementary therapy for atopic dermatitis and other allergic skin diseases: facts and controversies. [Review]. Clin Dermatol. 2010;28(1):57-61.
  • Cherniack EP. Bugs as drugs, Part 1: Insects: the “new” alternative medicine for the 21st century? [Review]. Altern Med Rev. 2010;15(2):124-35.
  • Chishti MA, Mohi-Ud-Din E, Usmanghani K, et al. Comparative clinical efficacy and safety of coded herbal medicine Dermovix in the management of patients with atopic dermatitis versus allpathic medicine. Pak J Pharm Sci. 2015;28(5):1655-63.
  • deRoos NM, Katan MB. Effects of probiotic bacteria on diarrhea, lipid metabolism, and carcinogenesis: a review of papers published between 1988 and 1998. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000;71:405-11.
  • Folster-Holst R, Muller F, Schnopp N, et al. Prospective, randomized controlled trial on Lactobacillus rhamnosus in infants with moderate to severe atopic der

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