Dermatitis refers to an inflammation of the skin, both external and internal. It is characterised by
redness, swelling, heat and pain or itching. Any part of the body may be affected by this disease.
The genital areas and the exposed areas such as the eyelids, forearms, face and neck are more
prone to it.
The cells of the epidermis ( the surface layer of the skin ) are normally protected from damage
by the tightly packed squamae of keratin of the horny layer. The elasticity of keratin varies with
its water content. This water content can be reduced by evaporation or by removal of the lipid
with which it retains moisture. Substances which produce inflammation of the epidermis or
dermatitis by mechanical or chemical disruption of the horny layer are called irritants.
Degreasing agents like soaps, if used too frequently over a short time, will cause dryness,
redness, fissuring and irritation of the skin in almost everyone.
The appearance of dermatitis varies according to its severity and the stage of its evolution. The
first symptom is erythema
or redness. This is usually followed by swelling of the skin due to
oedema( excessive fluid retention ). Vesicle may appear thereafter .In case of their rupture, their
bases exude serum
. This condition is known as weeping dermatitis. Later, the serum
dries up to
form crusts. IN some people the disease seems to come and go without any great change in the
Chemical substances usually give rise to dermatitis. They may reach the skin from outside or
from inside through the blood-stream. About 100 different plants are known to be capable of
causing dermatitis in susuceptible persons. The onset is usually acute and begins an hour or two
after contact. Dermatitis may be caused by external contact with mineral irritants. This includes
most cases of industrial dermatitis which arise on the hands or forearms which actually come in
contact with the irritant.
Certain drugs applied externally such as atropine, belladona, carbolic acid, iodine, mercury,
penicillin, sulphonamides, sulphurs, tars and turpentine sometimes cause dermatitis. Other
substances causing this disease include hair dyes, bleaches, skin tonics, nail polish, perfume,
wool , silk, nylon, floor-wax and various detergents. Other causes of this disease are indiscretion
in diet, deficiency of vitamin A and pantothenic acid , and nervous and emotional stress
As dermatitis may appear due to varied causes, treatment also varies accordingly. If, however,
the trouble is constitutional arising from internal causes, the patient should commence the
treatment by adopting an all-fruit diet for at least a week. In this regimen, he should take three
meals a day of juicy fruits such as orange, grapes, apple, pineapple and papaya at five hourly
After an exclusive fruit diet, patient may adopt a restricted diet for ten days. In this regimen,
breakfast may consist of orange juice or grapefruit. Raw salad, consisting of vegetables
available in season, with raisins, figs or dates may be taken for lunch and dinner may consist of
steamed vegetables such as spinach, cabbage, carrots, turnips, cauliflower, along with a few
nuts or fresh fruit. Mild puddings and desserts such as jellies, jams and pastries, all condiments,
spices, white sugar, and white flour and products made from them, tea, coffee and other
stimulating drinks should all be avoided.
After the restricted diet, the patient should gradually embark upon a well-balanced diet,
consisting of seeds, nuts and grains, vegetables and fruits. The emphasis should be on fresh
fruits and raw vegetables. IN case of a severe condition, the patient should undertake a fast on
fruit or vegetable juices for three to five days. This may be followed by a restricted diet for ten to
fifteen days. Further fasts and a period on restricted diet at intervals may be adopted after the
resumption of a normal diet.
The warm water enema should be used daily to cleanse the bowels during the first week of
treatment and thereafter as necessary. Epsom-salts baths may be taken two or three times a
week. The affected areas may also be bathed twice daily in hot water with Epsom salts. About
100 grams of Epsom salts should be added to a bowlful of hot water for this purpose. A little
olive oil should be applied after Epsom-salt bathing.
The patient should avoid white sugar, refined carbohydrates, tea, coffee, and other denatured
foods. He should make liberal use of fruits and vegetable juices. The combined juice from apple,
carrot and celery is especially beneficial in the treatment of dermatitis. About 175 ml. each of
these juices should be mixed to prepare 525 ml. of combined juice.
No medicines of any kind should be used. In case of trouble due to external causes, the most
effective treatment consists of applying a mixture of baking soda (bicarbonate of soda ) and olive
oil. The alkaline sodium neutralises the poisonous acids formed in the sores and oil keeps the
flesh in a softened condition.
The patient should undertake moderate physical exercise, preferably simple yoga asanas after
the fast is completed and the start of the restricted diet. Exercise is one of the most valuable
means for purifying the blood and for preventing toxaemia. The patient should also have
adequate physical and mental rest and fresh air. He should avoid exposure to cold, and adopt
regular hours of eating sleeping.