Dermatitis is a term used to describe a family of skin conditions in which the skin becomes inflamed and itchy. In extreme cases, dermatitis sufferers may develop painful blistering of the skin as well as rashes that weep and bleed.

What is Dermatitis?

Dermatitis is a family of skin conditions that involve brief or chronic inflammation of the skin. Common features include itchy, red, swollen, dry patches or bumpy, watery rashes.  In serious cases, the skin may crack, ooze, bleed or blister.

Types of Dermatitis

  • Contact – reddish rash caused by recurring exposure to irritating substances – harsh detergents, glues, disinfectants, etc. – or contact with allergy-inducing substances – rubber, wool, metal, plants, etc.
  • Atopic – (eczema) chronic, itchy, red scaling patches in skin folds and/or on the face, neck, hands
  • Seborrheic (dandruff or cradle cap on the scalp) white or yellow scales and oily areas on face, eyebrows, nose or chest
  • Nummular – round or oval shaped, itchy, reddened sores on trunk, arms and/or legs
  • Stasis – on lower legs, associated with fluid build-up and varicose veins

What are the Causes of Dermatitis?

  • Allergies
  • Irritants


  • Allergies
  • Moisture
  • Underlying medical condition
  • Cold, dry weather

Who is Affected by Dermatitis?

  • Eczema affects up to 17% of Canadians at some point (1)
  • Canada has higher lifetime prevalence of eczema compared to worldwide average (2)

Related Problems

  • Itch, infection, pain
  • Embarrassment
  • Sleep problems, work absences

Potential Treatments for Dermatitis

  • Over-the-counter preparations – 0.5 % hydrocortisone cream, antihistamines and/or medicated shampoos, moisturizers
  • Avoid triggers such as known allergens where relevant (e.g. Hair dyes, perfumes)
  • Prescription medications – topical or oral corticosteroids, antibiotics

Note: Certain treatments for medical conditions that are considered to be elective and/or cosmetic are not covered by Medical Services Plan of BC.


Patient Resources

Mayo Clinic
(1 & 2) Canadian Dermatology Association

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