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September 1996

Eczematous Dermatitis?

Author Affiliations

Department of Dermatology Bowman Gray School of Medicine Winston-Salem, NC 27157

Arch Dermatol. 1996;132(9):1130. doi:10.1001/archderm.1996.03890330146030

The title of the article in the December 1995 issue of the Archives about the antipruritic effect of doxepin hydrochloride certainly drew our attention.1 What is eczematous dermatitis? We were taught that neither eczema nor dermatitis is a specific diagnosis. Also, although some authors use eczema for diseases with a chronic course and dermatitis for diseases with an acute course, most dermatologists use the 2 words interchangeably. Thus, to lump cutaneous eruptions under an umbrella diagnosis of eczematous dermatitis is at least a redundancy similar to making a diagnosis of aphthous ulcer (given that aphtha means ulcer). The use of imprecise, redundant terms such as eczematous dermatitis is propagated by their inclusion in major textbooks of dermatology.2

Ackerman has already commented on the lack of a clear definition of the term eczema.3 Rather, eczema is a nonspecific term describing skin inflammation involving epidermal change. The study further characterizes the patients as having lichen simplex

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