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Dermatitis & Eczema

Dermatitis and eczema are skin conditions generally characterised by scaling, flaking and thickening of the skin. Resultant rashes can ooze fluid, and can be extremely itchy. Several different forms of dermatitis can occur.

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  • Contact dermatitis is an allergic reaction to something that has touched the skin (such as dishwashing liquid); the rash is restricted to the area exposed to the irritant
  • Nummular (or coin-shaped) dermatitis is more common in older people who have dry skin or live in dry environments; it is characterised by red, itchy, circular sections of weeping, scaly, or encrusted skin
  • Cradle cap (or seborrheic dermatitis) occurs most commonly in babies and consists of greasy, yellowish scales on the scalp and eyebrows, behind the ears, and around the nose
  • Stasis dermatitis occurs on the inside of the lower legs and around the ankles, and is characterised by scaling, greasy-looking, sometimes ulcerated skin
  • Atopic dermatitis, or eczema normally starts in infancy and is an extremely itchy, allergic condition that normally occurs in the bends of the elbows and knees or on the face


Contact dermatitis is caused by physical contact of the skin with an irritant such as detergent, soap, chlorine, synthetic fibres, nail polish remover or antiperspirant. Cosmetic and skin-care products are common triggers.

Nummular dermatitis is caused by stress, living in a dry environment or taking very hot showers.

Seborrheic dermatitis or cradle cap has been linked to a deficiency of biotin (one of the B group of vitamins), and with over-production by oil glands. Stress may also play a role in seborrheic dermatitis.

Stasis dermatitis is caused by poor circulation and pooling of the blood in the lower limbs.

Atopic dermatitis is a hereditary allergic condition; other family members often have history of allergy or asthma. It may be triggered by stress, by food allergy (dairy foods and wheat products are common allergens), or by airborne allergens such as pet hair.

Natural Therapies

The cause of dermatitis must first be identified and removed before treatment can get under way.
Seborrheic dermatitis may respond to coal tar-based shampoos and lotions.

To help dry the sores of nummular dermatitis, soak the area in salt water, then apply corticosteroid cream.

Wearing support stockings and regularly elevating the legs will help to improve blood flow and reduce the symptoms of stasis dermatitis.

  • Evening primrose oil has been shown in clinical trials to be of value in the reduction of symptom of atopic eczema such as skin dryness, itching and inflammation.
  • Take a Zinc supplement to assist with skin healing
  • Vitamin B Complex, along with magnesium is an effective way to improve your body's ability to cope with stress.

Diet and Lifestyle Suggestions

Keeping a symptom diary will help to pinpoint allergens in your diet or environment.

If you suspect an allergy to a chemical or cosmetic, try an at-home patch test by applying a small amount of the suspected irritant to a spot on your arm or back for seven days.


Preventive measures include:

  • Using a humidifier at home and at work to keep the air moist
  • Wearing natural loose-fitting clothing
  • Avoiding plated jewellery and watches
  • Lubricating your skin after bathing using an unscented, preservative-free lotion or ointment

Important Notes

Consult your health care professional if

  • Your skin is weeping or secreting pus
  • Your skin is not responding to treatment
  • You have dermatitis and are exposed to a viral skin infection such Herpes simplex, the cold sore virus


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