Atopic Dermatitis vs Contact Dermatitis

When is a rash not just “a rash”? Dermatitis in general describes the inflammation of the skin. There are two common types: Atopic and Contact dermatitis. There are similarities between these two conditions but they can also be differentiated with the proper diagnosis.

Their similarities include itchy blisters on inflamed and red skin. Another similar symptom is having dry flaky skin with oozing, and sometimes the leathery texture of the skin that happens when it thickens after chronic scratching.

However, both conditions have a lot more identifiable differences. The main being that atopic dermatitis is a pre-existing condition in the body caused by genetics, with a mix of external factors in the environment. Meanwhile, contact dermatitis is caused by a negative reaction from your skin being exposed to chemicals.

Atopic Dermatitis is the most common form of Eczema, a chronic skin condition that starts to manifest itself on the early stages of a person’s life. Contact dermatitis is caused by common allergens like poison oak, cosmetic agents, certain metals and fabrics, and hair dyes. The areas of the skin where atopic dermatitis occurs is mostly around the folds – like the elbows, behind the knees, ankles, behind the ears and the armpits. Contact dermatitis on the other hand occurs on spots that have been exposed to the allergen.

The diagnosis is also different between the two: for atopic dermatitis it is confirm the presence of eczema, itching and any sort of allergies. Further testing can involve skin or blood tests. Contact dermatitis also involves looking for any eczema, and determining the substance that causes the trigger (usually using a patch test).

If you have itchy patches on your skin, it’s important to get it properly looked at by a dermatologist to see if your rash is just a rash, or if it’s something else.

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