Exfoliative Dermatitis

Exfoliative Dermatitis

Erythroderma or exfoliative dermatitis, to give it its alternative and more familiar name, is a skin condition that can cause sufferers to develop painful red rashes over most of their body surface.

The ultimate causes of exfoliative dermatitis are still unknown at the current time, but it has been observed that those who fall victim to the condition have in many cases previously been diagnosed with a number of other skin conditions such as psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, and contact dermatitis. Patients suffering from certain cancers, and also those experiencing adverse reactions to some drugs, may also develop the condition.

Exfoliative dermatitis usually begins with the sufferer experiencing persistent, chronic itching. This itching may be concentrated in particular body areas like the head, groin, and trunk; however, it eventually spreads to the rest of the body. The tendency by patients to scratch in the areas that itch leads to skin rashes and the loss of much of the outer layer of their skin through a process of peeling and flaking.

Along with flaking, peeling skin, sufferers from erythroderma may experience a hardening of the skin texture, as well as hair loss. The skin all over the patient’s body can become very coarse and hard, with a pronounced redness affecting more or less everywhere on the surface of the skin.

The symptoms of sufferers from erythroderma are not confined to adverse effects on the skin. Patients may also feel very unwell, with chills and fever being very common symptoms. This can be related to heat loss, due to impairment of normal skin function as a result of the dermatitis.

Diagnosis and treatment of exfoliative dermatitis is not necessarily a very easy matter. The problem is that the condition develops from a number of other conditions. Some of these are other skin diseases, but erythroderma can also develop in cancer sufferers and due to allergic reactions to certain drugs. In other words, there is no one thing that causes this complaint. Therefore physicians have to evaluate each case carefully before deciding upon a course of treatment that is suitable for a particular patient.

One useful aid for clinicians is the mnemonic IDSCALP. This is based on the fact that, in cases of erythroderma, the origins are likely to be idiopathic (i.e. unknown) (30% of cases); caused by a drug allergy (28% of cases); a complication of seborrheic dermatitis (2%); a complication of contact dermatitis (3%); a complication of atopic dermatitis (10%); a symptom of lymphoma or leukaemia (14%); a complication of psoriasis (8%).

As can be seen from the above list, erythroderma is hard to diagnose. As for treatment, again this depends on the cause. However, in general, steroid creams are widely prescribed for the purpose of healing broken, cracked skin and troublesome sores. Moisturizers are also useful; however, in some cases patients may need to be hospitalized.

The bottom line with exfoliative dermatitis is that patients should seek medical advice sooner rather than later. Delaying seeing the doctor will only result in a slower resolution and treatment of what is a very distressing condition.

Enhanced by Zemanta