The disorders grouped under this heading are the most common skin conditions seen by family doctors, and make up some 20% of all new patients referred to our clinics.
The word ‘eczema’ comes from the Greek for ‘boiling’ aa reference to the tiny vesicles (bubbles) that are often seen in the early acute stages of the disorder, but less often in its later chronic stages. ‘Dermatitis’ means inflammation of the skin and is therefore, strictly speaking, a broader term than eczemaawhich is just one of several possible types of skin inflammation.
In the past too much time has been devoted to trying to distinguish between these two terms. To us, they mean the same thing. This approach is now used by most dermatologists, although many stick to the term eczema when talking to patients for whom ‘dermatitis’ may carry industrial and compensation overtones, which can stir up unnecessary legal battles. In this book contact eczema is the same as contact der-matitis; seborrhoeic eczema the same as seborrhoeic dermatitis, etc.