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Dermatitis is a general term used by dermatologists to describe inflammation and irritation of the skin. It is not a specific skin condition but rather a broad category that encompasses various skin disorders characterized by redness, swelling, itching, oozing, and sometimes blistering or peeling of the skin.
Some common types of dermatitis include: contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis (eczema), seborrheic dermatitis, nummular dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, stasis dermatitis, allergic reactions and spongiotic dermatitis.
Depending on your symptoms and affected areas, spongiotic dermatitis can also be mistaken for psoriasis on the face or other body parts.
What is spongiotic dermatitis?
Spongiotic dermatitis is a type of dermatitis that is characterized by a particular sponge-like appearance seen in the skin when examined under a microscope. This type of dermatitis is identified by a widening of the spaces between skin cells in the epidermis caused by an accumulation of fluid, which contributes to the redness, swelling, and itching1.
According to a board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Aditi Shende, in some cases spongiotic dermatitis can be a bit tricky to diagnose, since it can be caused by many different things and it may have many different symptoms, but not all may be present2.
Dr. Shende also mentions that the treatment of spongiotic dermatitis depends on identifying and addressing the underlying cause or trigger, whether it is an allergen, irritant, or an underlying skin condition.
This article covers the basics on spongiotic dermatitis so you and your online dermatologist can make an informed decision on the best treatment for you.
Symptoms of spongiotic dermatitis
- Itching: Spongiotic dermatitis can feel quite itchy and it may lead to scratching, which can worsen the condition
- Redness: The affected skin usually becomes red or pink
- Inflammation: The skin may appear swollen due to inflammation
- Burning or stinging: Some people report a burning or stinging sensation in the affected area
- Distribution in many areas of the body: Spongiotic dermatitis can occur on various parts of the body, depending on the type, but it is often found in body areas that you can bend (such as the inner elbows and behind the knees) or on the hands and feet
- Blistering: Tiny fluid-filled blisters may form on the affected skin, giving it a bubbly appearance
- Oozing: In some cases, the skin may ooze a clear or yellowish fluid, particularly if blisters rupture
- Scaling: The skin may become scaly or develop crusts, especially as the condition progresses
- Recurrence: Spongiotic dermatitis may flare up periodically, especially if the underlying trigger or irritant is not identified and managed3
How to get treatment for spongiotic dermatitis?
Spongiotic dermatitis can be managed best by having a consultation with a dermatologist. They will make an appropriate diagnosis and provide you with prescription treatment.
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Spongiotic dermatitis treatment
Topical corticosteroid creams or ointments are commonly used to reduce inflammation and itching associated with different types of dermatitis. The strength of the corticosteroid prescribed will depend on the severity and location of the rash4.
Topical calcineurin inhibitors
Topical calcineurin inhibitors such as tacrolimus and pimecrolimus can be used as an alternative to corticosteroids for certain types of dermatitis. They help reduce inflammation and can be useful for sensitive areas of the skin5.
Antihistamines (such as cetirizine or loratadine) can help relieve itching associated with spongiotic dermatitis6. They are especially useful when itching is interfering with sleep.
Crisaborole (Eucrisa) and roflumilast (Zoryve) are used in the treatment of certain inflammatory and autoimmune conditions such as psoriasis and atopic dermatitis. They work by inhibiting the action of an enzyme which plays a role in the regulation of an immune response and inflammation associated with various conditions7.
Janus kinase inhibitors
Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors target the JAK enzymes which play a key role in immune system function and inflammation. They work by blocking the action of these enzymes, thereby modulating immune responses and reducing inflammation. They are used to treat various autoimmune and inflammatory conditions such as atopic dermatitis and psoriasis8.
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Tips to manage spongiotic dermatitis
Managing spongiotic dermatitis involves a combination of self-care practices and medical treatment under the guidance of a dermatologist or healthcare provider.
- Consult a dermatologist if you suspect you have spongiotic dermatitis or experience persistent skin symptoms to get a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
- Determine what triggers or exacerbates your spongiotic dermatitis and take steps to avoid them. This may include identifying and eliminating allergens or irritants from your environment.
- Follow a gentle skincare routine. Use mild, fragrance-free soap and avoid hot water, which can strip the skin of natural oils. Pat your skin dry gently after bathing instead of rubbing.
- Apply moisturizers and emollients regularly to keep your skin hydrated. Moisturizers help to prevent dryness and reduce itching. Opt for products designed for sensitive skin.
- If prescribed by your dermatologist, use topical corticosteroids, calcineurin inhibitors, or other prescribed medications as directed. Follow the recommended application instructions and duration of use.
- If itching is a significant symptom, using an over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines may help relieve it
- Avoid scratching or rubbing the affected areas, as this can worsen inflammation and lead to skin damage and infection.
- Avoid tight clothing as it may irritate the skin. Wear loose fitting soft cotton clothes.
- Patients with atopic dermatitis should consider adding probiotics (like yogurt) to their diet.
- Apply cool, damp compresses to the affected areas to soothe itching and inflammation.
- Practice stress-reduction techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises.
- Keep scheduled follow-up appointments with your dermatologist to assess the progress of your treatment and make any necessary adjustments.
- In extreme weather conditions, protect your skin from harsh elements. Use sunscreen, wear protective clothing, and moisturize to prevent dryness and irritation.
Causes and triggers of spongiotic dermatitis
Hormonal changes like the ones faced during puberty, your menstrual cycle, pregnancy or menopause or hormone replacement therapy, can also influence spongiotic dermatitis, although the exact relationship may vary from person to person10.
A common cause of spongiotic dermatitis is contact with allergens or irritants, leading to an allergic reaction on the skin, this is usually known as Allergic Contact Dermatitis (ACD) and
Examples of allergic reactions:
- Certain plants such as poison ivy
- Nickel in jewelry
- Insect bites and stings
- Irritant substances such skin care products, cosmetics, fragrances, detergents, solvents, or chemicals in soaps, latex, hair dyes
- Some topical medications (especially those containing corticosteroids) can lead to a form of spongiotic dermatitis when used for an extended period
Bacterial or viral infections can cause an inflammatory response and trigger spongiotic dermatitis. For example, conditions like impetigo or herpes simplex.
Skin fungus such as dermatophytosis (ringworm), candidiasis, or tinea versicolor, can cause various skin reactions, including inflammatory responses like spongiotic dermatitis.
Emotional stress can exacerbate skin conditions like atopic dermatitis, which may lead to spongiotic dermatitis.
Exposure to extreme temperatures, humidity, or dryness can trigger or worsen spongiotic dermatitis in some individuals.
In some cases, autoimmune disorders like lupus or dermatomyositis can cause skin inflammation, including spongiotic dermatitis.
Atopic Dermatitis (also known as eczema) is a chronic skin condition that can result in spongiotic dermatitis when it flares up. Genetics and environmental factors can contribute to trigger or worsen it.
Food allergies (spongiotic dermatitis foods to avoid)
According to Dr. Shende, some people may experience spongiotic dermatitis as a result of food allergies or sensitivities. This does not mean that you cannot eat all these foods, what means is that if you have an allergy or sensitivity to one or more of theatopic dermatitis and psoriasisse foods, you can have a skin reaction.
A food allergy testing can help identify if you have a food sensitivity that may trigger your spongiotic dermatitis.
Common food allergens include:
- Dairy products
- spicy foods
- Food additives and preservatives
- Histamine-rich foods (aged cheeses, certain wines, and fermented foods)
Is spongiotic dermatitis contagious?
No, like all other types of dermatitis, spongiotic dermatitis is not contagious.
Is spongiotic dermatitis chronic?
According to Dr. Shende, spongiotic dermatitis can be acute or chronic, depending on the underlying cause and individual factors. The key to prevent chronic spongiotic dermatitis often involves identifying and addressing the underlying cause, managing triggers, and following a treatment plan recommended by a healthcare provider or dermatologist.
The early diagnosis and appropriate treatment are essential in preventing the condition from becoming chronic or recurring frequently.
Is spongiotic dermatitis an autoimmune disease?
Dr. Shende says that while spongiotic dermatitis is not an autoimmune disease, it can be caused by various underlying conditions or triggers, some of which may have autoimmune components.
What is subacute spongiotic dermatitis?
Dr. Shende says the term “subacute spongiotic dermatitis” refers to the stage of the condition. Subacute dermatitis is a stage between acute (early or initial) and chronic (long-lasting) phases of skin inflammation. In this stage, the skin changes may be somewhat more established than in the acute phase but have not progressed to the level of chronic or long-term inflammation.
What is psoriasiform spongiotic dermatitis?
The term “psoriasiform” means that the skin pattern resembles or shares characteristics with psoriasis. Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition characterized by red, scaly plaques on the skin, often associated with immune system dysfunction and inflammation.
Spongiotic dermatitis is a complex skin condition with various potential causes, and its treatment should be tailored to the individual’s specific condition and triggers. Consulting with a dermatologist or healthcare provider is crucial for proper diagnosis and management.
Check out our articles on the most common skin problems for a comprehensive overview of various skin conditions and diseases.