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  5. What Is The Difference Between Dermatitis & Eczema?

Do you often get confused between the two skin conditions - eczema and dermatitis? If yes, then you are not alone. Many of us wonder if these two are completely different skin conditions or just two names for the same disease! The confusion triggers many issues including delayed treatment and even wrong treatment at times.

Wondering how to identify the differences? Here we bring you the detailed characteristics of these skin conditions to identify the symptoms and get the right treatment done.

Scroll down to know more.

Similarities Between Eczema and Dermatitis

Dermatitis and eczema may seem like two vastly different skin conditions, but are actually pretty similar. Any inflammation of your skin is known as dermatitis and eczema is a type of dermatitis caused by specific infectious pathogens. So while all eczemas are dermatitis, not every dermatitis is eczema. Doctors use these two terms alternatively for the skin condition that causes flaky skin with red dry patches and even itchiness.

Major Differences Between Eczema and Dermatitis

1. Definition and Key features


It is a chronic skin condition that causes red rashes and itchiness. It mostly occurs on the joints of your body such as knees, elbows, and around the neck. Dermatitis [1] is typically associated with infectious pathogens like fungi, bacteria, yeast and viruses. People with mild to severe dermatitis may also suffer from asthma and hay fever.

Atopic dermatitis can happen even at a very early stage of life as in childhood. It is a long-lasting skin condition and may recur from time to time.


Eczema is a commonly used term for a skin condition that causes itchy rashes. Atopic dermatitis is one of the primary types of eczema. Since eczema causes itchiness and discomfort, you mostly tend to scratch it, which inflames your skin, worsening the condition. Your skin also turns bumpy.

Eczema mostly happens among children but adults can also get affected by it. The rashes appear on your wrists, face, feet and hands.

men itching scratching by hand

2. Triggers


Environmental And Genetic Factors:

These may lead to a constant tendency towards itching and inflamed skin. Most studies suggest that it is associated with atopic disorders like asthma and hay fever. So people who have dermatitis may have hay fever and asthma as well.

Filaggrin Decrease:

When the filaggrin (a protein) decreases from your skin, it disturbs your skin’s normal hydration which may lead to dermatitis.

Food Allergies:

Sensitivity or allergy to certain foods can also cause dermatitis. You may get extreme itching and discomfort due to this skin condition.

Weak Immune System:

According to studies and surveys, many patients who have faced this skin condition also had weak immune systems.


Fungal infections, cutaneous staphylococcal infections, lip infection, herpes, smallpox can trigger dermatitis.



Contact with allergens, latex gloves and certain metals can lead to eczema. Hand eczema [2] occurs when your hands come in contact with an allergen causing blisters on the soles of your feet and hand. Follicular eczema [3] occurs in your hair follicles as a secondary reaction to certain irritants.

Toxic Chemicals:

Constant exposure to toxic chemicals, usage of harsh soaps, fragrant cosmetics, pepper spray, bleach, exposure to kerosene, battery acid and chemicals can lead to eczema. Topical steroids, toothpaste with fluoride can trigger eczema too.

Injuries, Bites And Infections:

Burn injuries, insect bites and abrasion can cause Nummular eczema [4], which appears as coin-shaped itchy patches. A kind of herpes virus may also cause burning, blistering rashes on your skin. Yeast infections can cause Seborrheic dermatitis [5], a chronic eczema in the scalp or areas with most hair follicles.

Weather And Skin Type:

Neurodermatitis, a neurological skin condition causes scaly and itchy skin on your hand, scalp, feet and neck. The cause behind this is unknown but it is mostly associated with dry skin. Ear eczema happens due to extreme weather conditions and makes your skin dry and scaly.

Other Triggers:

Hot showers taken over a long period and usage of uncomfortable fabric are some of the other triggers.

3. Symptoms


  • Skin dryness
  • Dry skin patches
  • Itchiness
  • Skin Sores
  • Bumps
  • Fluid-filled blisters
  • Rashes in oily areas
  • Redness on skin


  • Burning sensation
  • Sensitive to sunlight
  • Red rashes
  • Itchiness
  • Stinging feeling
  • Liquid-filled blisters
  • Stiff or tight skin
  • Cracked skin
  • Open sores
  • Swelling

4. Available Treatments and Medication


  • Topical corticosteroids are commonly prescribed medicine for dermatitis.
  • Non-steroidal topicals are also recommended.
  • Antihistamine drugs like diphenhydramine are used to reduce symptoms like allergic reactions.
  • Phototherapy treatment is done with UVA and UVB lights for minor to major dermatitis.


  • Antifungal medications such as allylamines, the benzylamines, and the hydroxypyridone may be recommended by your doctor, based on the condition.
  • Antibiotic medicine metronidazole gel-based formulation is used for seborrheic dermatitis. Tea tree oil is also very effective for this condition.
  • Anti-itch medications like calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream are good for contact dermatitis.
  • You can use petroleum jelly on the affected skin.

How To Prevent Dermatitis and Eczema?

  • Do not take long showers and avoid using extremely hot water. Use lukewarm water instead, with gentle soap.
  • Moisturize your skin with gentle moisturizers like body oils, lotion, creams or body butter. Knowing your skin type can help you identify products that are beneficial for you.
  • Keep your skin safe from irritants like harsh soap, detergents, and solvents.
  • Try to limit scratching or keep nails short to discourage the habit.
  • Avoid wearing irritant fabrics like wool.
  • Don’t eat foods that you are allergic to. It may trigger your eczema.
  • Keep your room temperature normal. Don’t stay in extreme cold.
  • Control your stress levels.

When To Consult A Doctor?

Normally, mild cases of eczema are treatable at home with over-the-counter products and a few lifestyle changes. But if your condition is not improving, you should immediately visit a dermatologist. The dermatologist can suggest the right medication to cure your skin condition. In case, you have pain in the infected area or if you are feeling extremely uncomfortable, seek medical advice immediately.

Wrapping Up

Eczema and dermatitis are two different terms used for a similar skin condition that makes your skin flaky, itchy and red. With multiple types of eczema and dermatitis being caused due to varied triggers, know more about symptoms and treatment. Take special care of your skin to avoid any irritant or allergic pathogen so that your skin condition does not worsen.

Begin By Knowing Your Skin

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