confusion about eczema

Eczema? Dermatitis? Rash?

Eczema?  Dermatitis?  Rash?  Do these terms seem identical to you?

It’s because they are.   And they indicate very little about the cause or proper treatment of your particular skin condition. Let’s look at the definitions of these common “diagnoses”.

  • Eczema – From Ancient Greek “ἔκζεμα” (ekzema) 1.  An acute or chronic inflammation of the skin, characterized by redness, itching, and the outbreak of oozing vesicular lesions which become encrusted and scaly.
  • Dermatitis – From Ancient Greek “δερματίτις” (dermatitis) 1.  Inflammation of the skin.
  • Rash – From Middle English “rasch” (rash) 1.   An area of reddened, irritated, and inflamed skin.

To a dermatologist,  “eczema” and “ dermatitis” are used interchangeably.  These terms are used to refer to a group of skin conditions which, if more specifically and accurately diagnosed, are treated very differently.   Let’s look at some examples:

Get the picture?  “Eczema” and “dermatitis” are broad categories, not diagnoses.   They are chapter headings in any textbook of dermatology, not specific conditions.    In other words, to a dermatologist, these terms are starting points, not end points.

“Eczema” and “dermatitis” are broad categories, not diagnoses, to a dermatologist.

Why does this matter?  Many patients who have been “diagnosed” with one of these conditions, have required many appointments, tried many topical and oral medications, incurred enormous cost, but have not attained long-term relief.  At Rustad Dermatology PC, as a great mid-westerner once said, “The Buck Stops Here”.


The important thing is to first diagnose your skin condition accurately, and then treat it.  In our office, your evaluation will begin with a thorough history and physical examination by a board-certified dermatologist.  If further diagnostic workup is needed, we are uniquely qualified and have the tools and experience you need, such as:

  • Complete contact allergy testing for a full range of potential causative allergens
  • Definitive laboratory testing made possible by our residency training in dermatology
  • Skin biopsy interpretation by independent, world-class dermatopathologists
  • Unique, tailor-made prescriptions specifically designed for your condition

If you have a rash that just won’t go away, we’d be delighted at the opportunity to evaluate or re-evaluate it.  To schedule a consultation with our board-certified dermatologist, call us at 402.484.6222. Thank you.

Posted in Pediatric Dermatology, Psoriasis, Rashes, Services.