What is the difference between dermatitis and eczema: we study the causes and symptoms

Many skin diseases are similar to each other and require differential diagnosis by a specialist. Dermatitis and eczema may have the same symptomatology, but still, the two dermatological diseases have differences that affect the diagnosis.

Dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin that occurs upon contact with adverse environmental factors, chemicals, care products and cosmetics. A classic example is occupational contact dermatitis, which occurs due to the constant contact of a person with certain chemicals during work. 

The following symptoms are characteristic of dermatitis:

  • dryness;
  • peeling;
  • redness of the skin;
  • cracks;
  • rashes, blisters;
  • itching, tingling sensation.

Eczema is a disease that often passes in a chronic form, is periodically accompanied by exacerbations, proceeds with the formation of very dry or weeping skin areas, edema, peeling, worsens the quality of life due to burning and itching. 

That is, the symptoms of eczema and dermatitis are very similar. But in the formation of eczema, an important role is played by the body’s tendency to react in a certain way to an irritant, that is, atopy . Therefore, eczema is also called atopic dermatitis.

What is the difference between eczema and dermatitis

Eczema is a special case of dermatitis. This is what causes similar symptoms of inflammation. But only eczema has a specific mechanism of formation, which is not characteristic of all dermatitis in general.

Eczema has a complex mechanism of formation, in which genetic predisposition, immunological dysfunction, and disorders of the epidermal barrier are involved. The main symptom of eczema is itching. It also does not occur with all dermatitis. Patients with atopic dermatitis have mutations in the gene that encodes filaggrin , so very often eczema is difficult to treat and periodically worsens. Dermatitis can occur suddenly and also suddenly disappear, never appearing again, and eczema can bother a person for years, periodically exacerbating.  

With eczema, immunoglobulin E in the blood rises, which indicates an allergic component of the disease, which cannot be called a characteristic symptom for all dermatitis. A disease in a person prone to atopic reactions can be provoked by:

  • food, such as milk, eggs, peanuts;
  • specific allergens such as dust mites;
  • some cosmetics, perfumes;
  • increased sweating;
  • some fabrics with a rough texture;
  • Staphylococcus aureus , which actively colonize the skin due to a lack of antimicrobial peptides.

Common dermatitis cannot occur if a person eats a product that is allergenic to him, for example, peanuts, and eczema may well appear due to inaccuracies in nutrition. That is, a failure occurs throughout the body, but this is reflected precisely on the skin in the form of eczema. Pathologies of the gastrointestinal tract, stagnation of bile, dyskinesia of the biliary tract can lead to eczema. 

Atopy , characteristic of eczema, is a predisposition to atypical, excessive skin reactions, so eczema occurs in a certain type of people with constitutional features. Dermatitis can occur in everyone, for example, upon contact with aggressive household chemicals, while the person will not show signs of an allergic reaction.

event_note August 31, 2021

account_box Dr. Peter B Milburn

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