What is Papular Dermatitis?

Meshell Powell

Dermatitis is the medical term for a variety of skin conditions that typically cause swelling, itching, and sometimes flaking or scaling of the skin. Skin papules are small, raised bumps on the skin. Therefore, papular dermatitis is any skin condition that involves swollen, itchy bumps on the skin. There are several such skin conditions, including chicken pox, eczema, and inflammatory acne. While treatment always begins with identifying the root cause of the dermatitis, medications such as anti-itch ointments or oral antibiotics are frequently used.

Oral antibiotics may be required to treat papular dermatitis.
Oral antibiotics may be required to treat papular dermatitis.

Chicken pox is a common form of papular dermatitis that is most common in children, although it can appear at any age. Symptoms of chicken pox include small red bumps that typically begin on the abdomen, back, or face. These bumps may then spread all over the body, causing intense itching. These bumps, or papules, sometimes burst open, excreting a clear liquid before drying up and crusting over. Chicken pox is usually a mild disease and tends to resolve on its own without medical treatment, although anti-itch creams often help to keep the patient more comfortable for the duration of the illness.

Inflammatory acne is a form of papular dermatitis.
Inflammatory acne is a form of papular dermatitis.

Eczema is another type of papular dermatitis. Eczema causes a red, swollen rash that may cause crusting of the skin or papules, which may ooze fluid once they break open. The exact cause of eczema is unknown, but it is believed to have a genetic component in some patients or be related to allergies to food or other substances in others. Topical steroid ointments are often used to treat this form of papular dermatitis. Skin infection is common with this disorder, so oral antibiotics are often prescribed as well.

Chicken pox is a form of papular dermatitis most common in children.
Chicken pox is a form of papular dermatitis most common in children.

Another type of papular dermatitis is a type of acne known as inflammatory acne. In this type of acne, large papules can appear that sometimes cause permanent scarring. Topical antibiotic and steroid ointments are often prescribed to help to ease these symptoms and prevent severe scarring. Oral medications, frequently including hormone therapy in female patients, may also be used.

Papular dermatitis can cause severe itching for sufferers.
Papular dermatitis can cause severe itching for sufferers.

A dermatologist is a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of skin disorders. This type of doctor is experienced in diagnosing the various types of papular dermatitis. Once an accurate diagnosis has been made and any underlying medical conditions have been identified, an individualized treatment plan can be created to treat the root cause as well as the individual symptoms caused by the dermatitis.

Steroid ointments are among treatments that help relieve itching caused by skin papules.
Steroid ointments are among treatments that help relieve itching caused by skin papules.

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Discussion Comments


@wavy58 - You have my sympathy. I suffer from eczema, too, and I know how difficult it can make everyday life.

I have to avoid all scented soaps, and there is only one kind of detergent I have found that doesn’t irritate my skin. I can’t be around dogs or in a house where dogs live, because their dander agitates the condition. Whenever I get a bad cold, I get a flare-up to accompany it.

Most often, I just use hydrocortisone cream on the itchy red areas. If I have a particularly bad episode that won’t seem to go away, I go to my doctor for some oral corticosteroids.


I have atopic dermatitis, the most well-known kind of eczema. I often start to itch before my rash even appears. When it does show up, it’s usually on my face, feet, hands, and knees.

The itchy area is scaly and thick. I have fair skin, so the patches start out red but later turn brown.

Sometimes I get flare-ups after my skin touches wool, canvas, or some other rough material. I can’t wear certain materials that lots of sweaters are made from, and even some stiffer blue jeans irritate me. It also seems like it appears during times when I am really stressed.


I got diagnosed with papular dermatitis by my dermatologist when I was 27. It’s weird that my teenage acne was long gone, but this new skin condition flared up later in life.

Besides conducting a series of chemical peels on my face, he medicated me with antibiotics, hormones, and a topical gel. I don’t know which one did the job, but at least one of them worked. It took about five months to really clear up, but I could see the progress as time went on.


I remember getting chicken pox during spring break week as a kid! It was the worst. Rather than playing during my time off, I had to stay cooped up inside, trying not to scratch!

I think my mom tried everything from Calamine lotion to hydrocortisone to relieve my itching. It really was useless. She ended up making me wear mittens so I absolutely could not scratch!

Today, I still have a few scars from chicken pox. One is a crater above my eyebrow, and the other a sunken-in spot on my back. Since most people have had this condition themselves, no one asks where I got my eyebrow crater.


@ceilingcat - Chicken pox is the pits. I remember being so itchy and sitting in an oatmeal bath to try to get rid of some of the itching. In my opinion, it didn't work too well.

Unfortunately I also suffer from eczema as an adult. I was using a steroid cream every day until awhile back. I read that steroid creams can have some harmful effects long term so I scaled back the steroid cream in favor of a natural anti-eczema cream. So far it's been working all right.


Chicken pox is awful! I'm glad most people only get it once.

When I was a kid, the chicken pox vaccine wasn't around yet, or if it was it wasn't very popular. So when one kid got the chicken pox, all the moms would bring their kids over and expose them so they would get it too! If you get chicken pox as an adult it's way worse, so it's better to just get it over with.

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