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What is Perioral Dermatitis?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 16 September 2016
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Perioral dermatitis (perioral translates as around the mouth) is a difficult skin condition that appears to most affect women between the ages of 20-45 in developed countries. It looks similar to rosacea and causes red papules or bumps that may burn or make the skin feel tight or stretched around the mouth. The condition is subject to recurrence even after treatment, and in worse situations it can spread around the nose and under the eyes.

Not only are papules present, but the skin can look rough, dry and “scaly.” In a few cases the bumps take on a yellow color. Some doctors have compared the appearance of this condition to a combination of eczema and acne. Though there is some discomfort associated with perioral dermatitis (also called POD), main issues with this condition are that it is temporarily unattractive, and in chronic cases it may scar the skin.

Dermatologists believe there are several main causes of perioral dermatitis. One of the main causes may be using topical steroid creams, but other things like sun or wind exposure, use of toothpastes with sodium lauryl sulfate, and use of petroleum jelly might create the condition too. Another potential cause is yeast or bacterial infection. Sometimes a combination of using several skin creams and things like sun exposure or infection may create the problem.

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There are several treatments for perioral dermatitis. These can include using topical steroid creams in very low doses, which seem to counteract high dose use of steroid cream. People may be asked not to wear makeup, to use special types of toothpaste that have fewer chemicals, and to use facial cleaners or moisturizers that have zinc and that may fight any presence of fungal infection. It is very common for doctors to prescribe antibiotics to treat POD, too, but sometimes antibiotic use is contraindicated, especially if the condition develops in pregnant women.

Sometimes people turn to alternative treatments for POD. Some of the most commonly suggested include using honey or apple cider vinegar on the affected areas. There’s little evidence that these are more or even as effective as those treatments posed by dermatologists. Such treatments would still need to be combined with avoidance of makeup, which can exacerbate the problem, and the condition could still recur several times.

Mostly, the condition is more visually unappealing than it is painful or threatening to life, though the tightness and scaling around the mouth can burn. Some people also complain of itching. There may be a few makeup types that dermatologists can recommend to cover up the bumps, but people may need to go without makeup for a while, which means POD is in full evidence during its outbreaks. There’s little information on how to stop perioral dermatitis from recurring, and many affected with the condition will have more than one outbreak over a lifetime.

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