Dermatitis on its literal and straightforward meaning refers to inflammation of the skin. It derives from the Greek word Dermat (skin) and suffix itis (disease). It is characterized by reddened, swollen and itchiness of the skin that may result in severe conditions (although rarely) if not addressed immediately. It can start in childhood and continue into adulthood and eventually become a chronic lifelong condition. Many factors can trigger dermatitis, but before we move to these factors, let’s discuss the different types of dermatitis.
There are four common types of dermatitis:
- Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema) is the most common type of dermatitis as it usually begins during childhood. It is an immune-mediated inflammation where clear fluid may leak from affected areas which may thicken over time and result in the itchy, reddened and swollen skin. The areas where this type of dermatitis can appear is where our skin flexes like the back of our knees, wrists, folds of the arms, face and neck. Studies showed that there is a 50% rate of infants who suffer from this condition and end up taking it with them to their adulthood. The causes of this type of dermatitis are dry skin, immune system dysfunction, gene variation, bacteria and some environmental conditions.
- Contact Dermatitis is characterized by a red rash that may burn, sting or itch. This type of dermatitis can be acquired through direct contact of any parts of the body to an irritant or an allergen. The irritant contact dermatitis happens when an irritant penetrates our skin membranes and prompts a release to our immune system. Once this occurs an inflammatory response kicks in. The brain may have two reactions on the irritants. It may recognize (elicit) or delay (sensitize) the inflammatory response. Allergic contact dermatitis on the other hand refers to a hypersensitivity reaction where previous exposure to a specific allergen may trigger the intervention. All areas that made contact are affected by its response. Direct contact with the following will cause an inflammatory response for those that are affected:
- Jewelry containing nickel
- Cleaning products
- Preservatives used in creams and lotions
- Toxicodendron Radicans, famously known as poison ivy although it is not an exact ivy plant, but rather a member of cashew and pistachio family of plants.
- Seborrheic Dermatitis is a type of dermatitis caused by yeast (fungus) in the oil secretion of the skin. It commonly affects the oily areas of our body such as the face, back and upper chest. If it appears on a babies scalp it is called a cradle cap. As for the scalp of older children, it is more likely to be referred to as dandruff. Risk factors of this type of dermatitis include:
- Occupations with direct contact (health workers commonly have hand eczema)
- Seborrheic congestive heart disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Stasis Dermatitis is also known as gravitational dermatitis, venous eczema and venous stasis dermatitis (varicose veins), is a condition where there’s a buildup of fluid in the lower legs due to poor blood circulation. Usually, reduced blood flow will cause a long-term condition called venous insufficiency. It happens when our veins have trouble sending blood to our heart. Characterized by enlarged and twisted veins this type of dermatitis can occur in many parts of the body. Regardless of the gravity our leg muscles pump blood back to our heart but when the veins become swollen and enlarged these valves no longer meet adequately. This sends the blood to flow in the other direction and expands the veins even more. Like the different types of dermatitis, Stasis can also be treated using the topical therapy.
- Hand Eczema is probably the most well known form of eczema. Hand eczema is common because hands are more at risk of constant exposure to direct contact with the irritants. Hand eczema can cause great embarrassment and insecurity.
- Neurodermatitis appears on regular and healthy skin. It starts with an itchy sensation that will cause us to scratch the area without knowing that it will irritate the nerve endings of our skin. Constant itching and scratching will result in irritated, thick and scaly skin.
- Discoid Eczema (Nummular Dermatitis) has a distinct appearance. It causes coin-shaped and oval sores on our skin. This form usually appears after an injury like bug bites and severe burns. The affected area will start to have a pustule and turns crusty as the sores become itchy over time.
Different Skin Types
Our Skin is the largest organ of our body and how we take care of it is extremely important. We all have different types of skin which are why the effects of dermatitis in each one of us varies. Ranging from normal skin type to dry, oily, and maybe a combination of it all, it’s important to know your skin type. Here is a list of different skin types:
- Normal Skin has a well-balanced production of sebum (oil secretion of sebaceous glands), This skin type defined by fine pores, fresh rosy colour and velvety smooth texture has no blemishes and has good blood circulation and is not prone to sensitivity.
- Dry Skin (Xerosis)has less production of sebum. Usually caused by constant loss of water (through perspiration, transepidermal, etc.) and a lack of natural nourishing factors (like amino acids, epidermal lipids and urea,). Dry skin is defined by tightness, brittleness, roughness and dullness looking skin. It’s mild scaling, flakiness, seems blotchy and is possible to frequent itchiness.
- Oily Skin is when there is overproduction of sebum. It is defined by enlarged, visible pores, a glossy shine, thicker and pale skin. Blood veins may not be visible. This type of skin is also prone to comedones (black and whiteheads) and acne. There’s also a moderate to a severe appearance of papules (small bumps with no visible black and whiteheads) and pustules (medium bumps with a tiny dot of black and whiteheads).
- Combination which is characterized by a T-zone, oiliness on the forehead, nose, chin and enlarged pores with impurities and is normal to dry cheeks.
Dr. Henry Grainger Piffard who is one of the founders of American Dermatology stated in his Journal of Cutaneous and Venereal Diseases (JAMA Derm) That the interactions between phytocannabinoids and our indigenous cannabinoid system are relevant in treating skin diseases since it has an antimicrobial effect. Many claim that it helps in healing their skin diseases. Regardless of our skin type and condition, here’s a small list of suggestions about taking care of your skin:
- Avoid dehydrating your skin by drinking more water
- You can choose shorter bath or showers for around 5-10 minutes than your usual half hour
- You can use gentle soaps
- Then dry yourself carefully
- Moisturize (Use lotions and creams)
Whatever the future holds, we want us to be sure of the quality we’re going to get and should be treating like medicine, because it is. We are indeed abundant already with a lot of resources surrounding medical cannabis.