Dermatitis is not actually a single condition, but rather a term used in describing multiple separate skin conditions. Dermatitis itself generally refers to a skin disease. Eczema is also a general term used to refer to a set of skin conditions.
Two common forms of dermatitis include Irritant and Allergic:
Irritant Contact Dermatitis – a condition caused by a direct reaction from an outside chemical that has come in contact with the skin. Hands are a frequent location for contact dermatitis because they frequently come in contact with chemicals. Dry air causes the hand to be more prone to becoming irritated. Perhaps surprisingly, almost any substance or change in condition can actually irritate the skin with enough exposure, including water and sudden temperature changes.
Common causes of Irritant Contact Dermatitis include alcohol, metalworking fluids and mineral spirits, frequent handwashing, scratches from plants, fiberglass insulation, soap, and strong acids.
Allergic Contact Dermatisis – This is actually a different condition than Irritant induced contact dermatitis. While symptoms may be similar, this type of dermatitis is sometimes accompanied with swelling. Allergen induced contact dermatitis happens when you skin comes in contact with a substance is recognized as foreign by your immune system. Your immune system actually produces an immune response. Immune reactions can take several days to manifest in full. A typical example of this type of reaction is poison ivy.
Substances to which some people may be allergic include the rubber in gloves, the metal nickel (added to steel and other metal alloys), poison ivy, skin product preservatives, airborne substances, formaldehyde, or fragrances. These may cause can allergic skin reaction, allergic contact dermatitis.
Atopic Dermatitis – Atopic dermatitis is a chronic skin condition, which means that it continues to reoccur over a long period of time. As with other skin diseases, atopic dermatitis is best diagnosed through consultations with your dermatologist. The causes for atopic dermatitis are complex and based multiple factors. It has a wide range of manifestations from mild to severe.