Understanding Dermatitis -- Symptoms

Medically Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on April 26, 2022
2 min read

The main symptom of dermatitis, or skin inflammation, is dry, red, itchy skin.

There are many types of dermatitis. Symptoms can vary depending on the type of dermatitis you have.

  • Contact dermatitis, caused by exposure to an irritant or allergic reaction, typically shows up as a red, itchy rash that is limited to the area of skin exposed to the substance.
  • Nummular dermatitis, common in people who have dry skin or live in dry environments, shows up as red, itchy, circular patches of weeping, scaly, or crusted skin.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis, called cradle cap in infants, causes greasy, yellowish scales on the scalp and eyebrows, behind the ears, and around the nose.
  • Stasis dermatitis causes scaling, darkening and swelling of the lower legs. Sometimes ulcerated or open skin appears inside the lower legs and around the ankles.
  • Atopic dermatitis (eczema) can cause extreme, persistent skin itchiness. However, many times, itchiness results simply from dry skin.
  • Your skin has oozing sores; honey-yellow crusting; red, swollen, tender areas; or other signs of infection. You may need treatment with antibiotics or other drugs.
  • The affected skin does not respond to treatment with over-the-counter creams or medicated shampoos. You should have a medical diagnosis and treatment.
  • You are exposed to anyone with herpes simplex virus infection while you are having a flare-up of atopic dermatitis (eczema). You are at increased risk of contracting the viral disorder.