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Diagnosis And Treatment

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Diagnosis And Treatment

Your doctor may diagnose dermatitis after talking to you about your signs and symptoms and examining your skin. In the case of contact dermatitis, your doctor may conduct patch testing on your skin to see which substances inflame your skin. In this test, your doctor applies small amounts of various substances to your skin under an adhesive covering. During return visits, your doctor examines your skin to see if you've had a reaction to any of the substances.

Dermatitis treatment varies, depending on the cause:

Contact dermatitis

The key treatment for this type is to identify and avoid the cause of the rash. Applying creams containing hydrocortisone to the affected area may help reduce redness and itching. It can take as long as two to four weeks for this type of dermatitis to clear up.


It is important to cover the affected skin areas, to keep from scratching and further irritating the area. Hydrocortisone creams or wet compresses may also work to relieve pain and itching. Antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications and counseling may be helpful for some people.

Seborrheic dermatitis

Medicated shampoos, containing tar, pyrithione zinc, salicylic acid or ketoconazole as the active ingredient are usually the treatment chosen for this form.

Stasis dermatitis

Correcting the condition that causes fluid to build in your legs or ankles for extended periods is the first treatment step. This may require wearing elastic support hose or even having varicose vein surgery. Wet dressings can be used to soften the thickened skin and to control infection.

Atopic dermatitis

Treatment begins with applying hydrocortisone creams to relieve redness and itching. A wet dressing with a mild astringent may be prescribed for cracked skin, to reduce secretions and prevent infection. Light therapy, which involves exposing your skin to controlled amounts of natural or artificial light, may help prevent recurrences.

Perioral dermatitis

An oral antibiotic, tetracycline, is usually prescribed for treatment, and may be continued for several months to prevent any reoccurrence.

Reviewed by: Michael Fuller, MD

Last updated: Sep-21-09

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