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What is Perioral dermatitis ?

It is a common skin disorder that usually affects young women. It causes a rash that mainly develops in the skin around the mouth. The term ‘perioral’ indicates ‘around the mouth’ while ‘dermatitis’ refers to ‘inflammation affecting the skin’

Most cases of perioral dermatitis have been seen to be triggered by the application of a steroid cream on the face. The rash associated with perioral dermatitis is treated by the stoppage of all ointments and cream application on the face, which include topical steroids as well as cosmetics. An antibiotics course that lasts for six to twelve weeks is recommended for treating the condition

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Perioral Dermatitis Symptoms

Some of the signs and symptoms of perioral dermatitis are discussed below:

  • The perioral dermatitis rash generally appears as tiny, pink or red bumpy spots on the skin surrounding the mouth. They can occur on various parts of the area around the mouth such as the cheeks, chin and the area below or adjacent to the nose. Even though the appearance is similar to acne, the perioral dermatitis rash is not acne. The skin adjacent to or under the spots is usually pink or red. In case, the rash appears as a cluster or group of spots, then the skin will have an overall bumpy and reddish appearance. The affected surface of the skin may occasionally become flaky and dry.
  • The skin present near the lips is generally not affected by perioral dermatitis. When it does get affected, it is with decreased severity. This can make the perioral dermatitis rash to look like a ring that surrounds the mouth with some clean space left around the lips. The skin surrounding the eyes is also sometimes affected.
  • The intensity of the perioral dermatitis rash can differ from mild cases of a few spots that are barely visible, to a striking, bumpy rash that can be seen around the mouth. It normally does not cause itchiness or pain. A few affected individuals may however experience mild itching or burning sensations, while few others may feel the affected skin as tense. Perioral dermatitis is not a harmful condition and does not indicate an underlying disease. It is however an ugly sight to behold.

Perioral dermatitis generally tends to affect the woman population, particularly those within the age group of 20 to 45 years. It is accepted that 1 in every 100 women have experienced the condition at some point in their lives. Children and men are generally not affected by perioral dermatitis. It may also be noted that with the increase in the number of men using facial skin products, the cases of men affected by perioral dermatitis is also on the rise.

Perioral dermatitis causes

The exact cause of perioral dermatitis is not yet known. It is thought that perioral dermatitis may be triggered by any of the factors discussed below:

  • The main triggers are thought to be ointments and steroid creams. It is possible for someone to inadvertently apply steroid creams on the face, when using it to treat certain other skin conditions such as eczema. For example, after applying the topical steroid, one may absent mindedly touch the face.
  • Ultraviolet light, strong winds and other physical factors are possible triggers
  • Cosmetics, cleansers and makeup used on the face can act as triggers, with makeup foundation considered as the most potent trigger
  • Another possible trigger is the use of fluorinated toothpaste
  • Changes in the hormone levels are believed to be a possible trigger, due to the fact that cases of perioral dermatitis tend to worsen during the time preceding the menstrual period
  • Bacteria and yeast that occur in the hair follicles are also thought to be active agents of the condition
  • In some cases, perioral dermatitis may be triggered by the use of oral contraceptive pills
  • A few studies have reported that the use of sunscreens on the face can trigger the onset of perioral dermatitis in some adults and children

Treatment for Perioral Dermatitis

Perioral dermatitis can last for many months and even years if left untreated. Most of the treatment methods for perioral dermatitis take some time to take effect. Some of the ways to clear the perioral dermatitis rash are listed below:

  • The first step is to stop using any ointment, cream, etc. on the face. One only needs to wash the face with water till the rash is present. Avoid using topical steroids to clear the rash. Do not use a bar soap to clean the face. Instead use a bland liquid face wash.
  • Visit a dermatologist for proper diagnosis and treatment
  • The doctor may prescribe antibiotics to treat the perioral dermatitis rash. The course usually lasts for 6 to 12 weeks. The antibiotics may not yield any results in the first month, but will aid in clearing the rash the second month onwards. Hence, it is important to continue the medication if recommended by the doctor.
  • Pimecrolimus cream can also reduce the skin inflammation and clear the rash.

Perioral dermatitis Pictures

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