Dermatitis is a skin inflammation characterized by red, dry and itchy skin. If the condition gets severe, it could also lead to painful cracks, crusty scales, and fluid filled blisters. There are many types of dermatitis and the diagnosis is done based on the category of dermatitis affecting the skin. The symptoms, as well as the treatment of these different types of dermatitis, are fairly similar.
Eczema is a condition in which the affected person experiences a dry, red and itchy area on the skin caused due to inflammation. Although it is most common in children, people of any age can get affected too. Eczema also goes by the name atopic dermatitis and the treatment can include anything from oral medications to steroid creams to light therapy depending on the severity of the condition.
Pityriasis rosea is a rash that usually appears on the chest, back or abdomen. It often begins as a small oval or circular spot, but with time, it could spread into a larger area of up to 4 inches across. This skin condition can affect people of all age groups, but is most common in those between 10 and 35 years of age. The rashes may be accompanied by itching and can take around 10 weeks to heal completely.
Pruritus is the medical term used for itchy skin. The itchiness can very intense and chronic. It could give rise to a strong urge to scratch, thus puncturing the skin. However, this should be avoided as the breaking of the skin’s natural barrier could lead to other secondary infections. The itchiness can occur in a small area like the nose or it can also occur in the entire body.
Lichen planus is a chronic skin condition that appears as a rash. It occurs due to the inflammation of the skin and mucous membranes and is accompanied by small, flat topped, polygonal bumps. These bumps can grow in clusters and develop into rough, scaly plaques on the skin, thus causing serious skin conditions.
Scabies is itchy and contagious skin condition caused due to parasitic infestation. They are caused due to the itch mites known as Sarcoptes scabiei. These are very small eight legged parasites that can burrow into the skin so as to produce itching. The itchiness can intensify, especially during the night. The mites that infest the humans are females are 0.3 to 0.4 mm long and not easily noticeable to the naked eye. These mites can crawl, but are unable to fly or jump. They become immobile at temperatures below 20 degrees Celsius, although they can survive at such low temperatures for a relatively long period of time.
Since the mites can easily be transmitted through direct skin to skin contact, scabies is highly contagious. This is also the most common mode of transmission for the parasitic mites. Common risk factors for catching scabies include close physical contact with the infected person, shaking hands, sexual contact, sharing clothes or furniture and even hanging the clothes together with those belonging to an infected person.
Even brisk physical contacts like a mother hugging her baby are enough to spread the skin condition. Sexually active young people are most likely to get the condition through sexual contact. It is also not unlikely for people staying together to get affected by the parasites together.
The most common symptoms of scabies is itchiness which gets more intense during the night. This is often accompanied by a pimple-like rash. These rashes could develop anywhere in the body and more commonly in the wrists, armpits, elbows, between fingers and toes, around the nails and delicate areas of the skin that usually remain covered by clothing such as nipples, genitals, buttocks and belt line. Among the infants and young people, the rashes are more likely to develop over the face, forehead, head, neck, palms, and soles. If the person has a weak immune system, the rashes may form crusts.
Since scabies is very itchy, it can induce vigorous itching, thus resulting in the breaking of the skin barrier which could further lead to a secondary bacterial infection such as impetigo. Impetigo is caused due to the infestation of staphylococci and streptococci bacteria. If the condition gets more severe, it can lead to skin crusting. Crusting usually takes place in people with weak immune system or people who are staying in hospitals and nursing homes. If the crust spreads to a larger area, they can be difficult to treat.
So far, there are no over the counter products for scabies. Any medications that are to be used have to be first prescribed by a doctor. Immediate treatment options include topical creams which are directly applied to the affected area. Elimite is a commonly used cream which is applied, kept overnight and washed off the following morning or anytime within 14 hours. This is again followed by a second application which is done after 1 or 2 weeks. Other popular medications include crotamiton cream and lotion, lindane, sulfur ointment and benzyl benzoate. Lindane also poses a risk of seizures and is generally not regarded as a first line treatment.