Dermatitis. What is it?

The word dermatitis is a collective term referring to a whole group of different conditions. Some of these conditions have very little in common except that the word dermatitis or eczema occurs somewhere in their names! A diagnosis of dermatitis is therefore not very specific and should always be further qualified to indicate the specific type of dermatitis.

To illustrate this concept, just look at this partial list of diseases that include the term eczema in their names:

1. Atopic dermatitis
2. Allergic contact dermatitis
3. Primary irritant dermatitis
4. Eczema Herpeticum
5. Perioral-nasal-ocular dermatitis
6. Seborrheic dermatitis
7. Dishidrotic dermatitis
8. Hand and foot dermatitis
9. Hand dermatitis
10. Eczema craqulae
11. Stasis dermatitis
12. Microbial dermatitis
13. Asteatotic dermatitis
14. Nummular dermatitis

This is why the term dermatitis must always be qualified!

A further source of considerable confusion is the relationship between the terms dermatitis and eczema. There is in fact no need for any confusion because the two terms are synonyms. The word dermatitiscan be substituted with the word eczema in the above list and it will still refer to the exact same condition!

Eczema is a Latin term that literally means "to erupt". Dermatitis is a term consisting of the word "Derma-" meaning skin and "-itis" meaning inflammation. Dermatitis therefore describes an actual pathological process occurring in skin whereas the term eczema is a more superficial description of what certain forms of eczema look like. It would have been simpler if the term eczema were abandoned, because dermatitis is a more medically correct term along with terms like hepatitis (inflammation of the liver), arthritis (inflammation of the joints), conjunctivitis (inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is a part of the eye) etc.

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But, like it or not, the term eczema is here to stay. Remember! Eczema and dermatitis are synonyms. You can not suffer from both eczema and dermatitis!!