Difference Between Eczema and Dermatitis

Eczema is also known as dermatitis. It is the same thing. Sometimes eczema refers to chronic skin inflammation while dermatitis refers to an acute attack. But then, chronic dermatitis would be synonymous with eczema. Therefore, it is important to remember that clinically both are the same, and they are classified together. This article will discuss dermatitis or eczema in detail, highlighting different types of eczema, their clinical features, symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment.

Dermatitis or eczema is of unknown origin. However, research suggests both genetic and environmental links. Dermatitis or eczema presents as redness, swelling, blistering, oozing, itching and exfoliation. There are many causes of eczema and all types of eczema are thus far classified haphazardly. Current eczema classification differs according to the site, cause and appearance. Sometimes eczema and atopic dermatitis mean the same. A new classification introduced by The European Academy of Allergology and Clinical Immunology resolves this confusion. This classification includes only allergic related dermatitis.

Common eczemas are atopic, contact, xerotic, and seborrhoeic dermatitis. Less common conditions are dyshidrosis, discoid eczema, venous eczema, dermatitis herpetiformis, neurodermatitis, and autoeczematization. Atopic dermatitis is common in children. It is most prominent behind joints, head and neck. Contact dermatitis comes in two forms. Irritant contact dermatitis is due to delayed skin reaction to an irritating substance. Allergic contact dermatitis is due to delayed reaction to non-irritant substances. Xerotic eczema is worsened dryness of skin which has turned into eczema. Dryness of skin in xerotica is so severe it looks like a dried river bed. Icthyosis is also related to xerotic eczema. Seborrhoiec dermatitis is common in infants. It is also known as cradle cap. It is related to dandruff. It is a dry, greasy, scaling of scalp, eyebrows and face. Dyshidrosis features small bumps on palms, soles, sides of fingers and toes associated with itching. It gets worse in warm weather.  Discoid eczema features spots of oozing or dry rash, with a clear boundary. It appears often on lower legs. It gets worse in winter. It is a recurrent condition with an unknown cause. Venous eczema occurs when the circulation is impaired and venous blood stagnates. It is commoner in the elderly. Skin gets dark, itchy and swollen. This leads to ulceration. Dermatitis herpetiformis is a severe itchy rash on limbs and trunk. It is related to celiac disease. This worsens at night and resolves with proper dietary control. Neurodermatitis is a thickening of the skin due to regular irritation or scratching. Usually only one site is affected. Autoeczematization is due to infections and clears when the original cause is controlled.

Diagnosis of eczema or dermatitis is clinical and depends on good history, taking and clinical examination. Eczema can be prevented by carefully avoiding allergens. The treatment controls symptoms, but there is no cure for eczema. Corticosteroids are very effective in controlling skin irritation, but long term use may cause skin damage, skin thinning and degeneration. Some immune modulators are available to control symptoms by modifying the disease progression.

Many clinicians use the word eczema or dermatitis indiscriminately. Even though these two words cause confusion, it is important to remember that no matter which word your doctor uses, you have the same thing.


Also, read the Difference Between Eczema and Psoriasis