What is Exfoliative Dermatitis? Peeling Skin Disease

Exfoliative dermatitis is also known as a peeling skin disease due to the severe scaling of the skin and extreme skin redness. The cause of exfoliative dermatitis is unknown although it may be linked to certain infections, drugs or related to other skin diseases. Exfoliative dermatitis should be differentiated from seborrheic dermatitis which often appears the same but seborrheic dermatitis usually affects the scalp, face and bottom in babies (nappy rash). Unlike many skin conditions, exfoliative dermatitis is a serious condition that can be fatal.

What causes exfolative dermatitis?

Causes of Exfoliative Dermatitis

As mentioned, in some cases the exact cause of skin peeling may not be identified although it is usually due to autoimmune causes. It may also occur as a result of other skin disorders like psoriasis vulgaris, atopic dermatitis , contact dermatitis and pityriasis rubra pilaris. Dermatophytes or skin yeasts may also cause exfoliative dermatitis

Exfoliative Dermatitis Picture from www.mdjunction.com
Exfoliative Dermatitis Picture from www.mdjunction.com

but usually infect the skin after the dermatitis begins. Exfoliative dermatitis may also occur after the use of certain scheduled drugs, like antibiotics, sleeping tablet, anti-anxiety or depression medication. In these cases, discontinuing the drug will cause the condition to settle provided that there is no irritation from other factors, like a skin fungus or bacterial infection.

What does exfoliative dermatitis look like?

Signs and Symptoms of Exfoliative Dermatitis

Usually exfoliative dermatitis starts suddenly and spreads rapidly. The skin surface appears red and then starts to scale or peel. With time, the skin becomes thick and may even crust. Itching in cases of exfoliative dermatitis can vary from severe itching to no itching although in most cases, there is some mild itching. In cases of exfoliative dermatitis where large areas of the body is affected, a bacterial or fungal infection of the skin is very likely to occur, especially when there is significant itching.

Other signs and symptoms that accompany exfoliative dermatitis include enlarged lymph nodes (lymph glands) and the skin may feel hot to touch. The sufferer may also experience fevers and chills that may not be a result of an infection. Other symptoms such as weight loss which may occur is often due to causes of exfoliative dermatitis rather than due to the skin condition itself.

How is exfoliative dermatitis treated?

Treatment of Exfoliative Dermatitis

Prolonged cases of exfoliative dermatitis can be life threatening if there is significant infection of the skin which can lead to septicaemia (blood poisoning). Exfoliative dermatitis can be linked to serious medical conditions, like lymphoma and further investigation may be required. Before treating exfoliative dermatitis orally, any medication should first be stopped to exclude a drug being the case of the disorder. If a certain drug is identified as the possible cause of the dermatitis, it should be changed to another similar drug if it is essential medication.

Antifungal creams for fungal infections and antimicrobial creams for bacterial infections of the skin may be necessary. Oral antibiotics should only be used in severe infections as antibiotics may exacerbate the condition further. If the dermatitis is persisting and no identifiable cause can be isolated, a hydrocortisone cream may be used. Oral corticosteroids should be used in persistent cases of exfoliative dermatitis. Thick applications like petroleum jelly may be useful in forming an artificial barrier and protecting the skin from environmental factors. Petroleum jelly may also help in preventing heat loss through the skin.

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