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Last Updated on August 4, 2023


Skin diseases or dermatoses, encompass a wide range of disorders that affect the skin, its appendages, and the underlying tissues. The skin, being the largest organ of the human body, serves as a protective barrier against external factors. Skin also plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health and well-being. One of the pressing skin condition is Spongiotic Dermatitis.
This condition can manifest in various ways, including rashes, bumps, discoloration, dryness, itching, or inflammation. They can be caused by multiple factors, such as genetics, infections, autoimmune reactions, allergies, hormonal imbalances, environmental triggers, or systemic diseases.

What Is Spongiotic Dermatitis?

Spongiotic dermatitis or acute eczema, is a type of inflammatory skin condition with swelling and redness of the skin. It is one of the most common patterns seen in dermatitis or eczema.
The term “spongiotic” refers to the appearance of the skin under a microscope. In this condition there is an accumulation of fluid within the epidermis, the top layer of the skin. This accumulation creates a spongy appearance when viewed microscopically.

Subacute Spongiotic Dermatitis

Subacute spongiotic dermatitis or subacute eczema is a milder form of dermatitis compared to acute or chronic cases. Individuals suffering from subacute eczema may present with itchy, red, and inflamed skin.

Subacute spongiotic dermatitis usually presents with redness, swelling, and itching of the affected area. The skin may become dry and scaly and exhibit small blisters or oozing. Common sites for this condition include the face, neck, hands, and inner elbow areas or behind the knees.

What Causes Spongiotic Dermatitis

Spongiotic dermatitis can have various causes. While the triggers vary from person to person, some common factors that can contribute to the development of the condition include

  • Allergens

Exposure to allergens such as certain foods, pollen, animal dander, dust mites, or certain medications can trigger an allergic reaction in susceptible individuals, leading to spongiotic dermatitis.

  • Irritants

Contact with irritating substances like harsh soaps, certain fabrics, or chemicals can disrupt the skin barrier triggering inflammations.

  • Genetic Factors

A family history of atopic dermatitis or other allergic conditions can increase the likelihood of developing spongiotic dermatitis. Certain genetic variations can affect the skin’s barrier function and immune response, making individuals more susceptible to skin inflammation.

  • Environmental Factors

Environmental factors such as dry or humid weather, cold temperatures, or excessive heat and sweating can aggravate spongiotic dermatitis symptoms.

  • Stress

Emotional stress and anxiety have been known to exacerbate spongiotic dermatitis symptoms, although the precise mechanisms are not fully understood.

  • Microorganisms

Bacterial, viral, or fungal infections can trigger or worsen spongiotic dermatitis. For example, Staphylococcus aureus bacteria commonly colonize the skin of individuals with eczema, leading to flare-ups.

  • Hormonal Changes

Hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy or menstrual cycles can influence the severity of spongiotic dermatitis symptoms.

Spongiotic Dermatitis Treatment

The condition is treated by reducing inflammation, relieving itching, and improving the skin barrier. The specific treatment approach may vary depending on the severity of symptoms and individual factors. It is best to consult with a dermatologist for a personalized treatment plan.

Topical Corticosteroids

These are commonly prescribed to reduce inflammation and relieve itching. They come in varying strengths, and the choice of potency depends on the severity and location of the dermatitis. It’s important to follow the prescribed instructions and not use potent steroids on delicate areas or for extended periods to avoid potential side effects.

Topical Calcineurin Inhibitors

These non-steroidal medications are prescribed for sensitive areas, like the face or genitals, or when corticosteroids don’t suit They help reduce inflammation and improve symptoms.

Emollients and Moisturizers

Regular and frequent application of moisturizers helps maintain the skin barrier and prevent dryness. Look for fragrance-free and hypoallergenic products. However, apply them immediately after bathing or showering to seal in moisture.

Topical Immunomodulators

These medications can be prescribe for the treatment of mild to moderate spongiotic dermatitis. Furthermore, they help modulate the immune response and reduce inflammation.


Oral antihistamines may be recommended to help relieve itching and improve sleep quality. Moreover, they can be particularly helpful at night when itching tends to worsen.

Wet Wrap Therapy

This technique involves applying moisturizers or topical medications to the affected areas and then covering them with damp dressings or wraps. It helps hydrate the skin, enhance the absorption of medications, and reduce itching.

Avoidance of Triggers

Identifying and avoiding triggers that worsen spongiotic dermatitis is crucial. However, this involves avoiding known allergens, and irritants, and maintaining proper skincare habits.


In some cases, controlled exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, under medical supervision, can help reduce inflammation and improve symptoms.

Systemic Medications

In severe cases or when other treatments fail, immunosuppressive medications may be prescribe for a short duration. However, these medications have potential side effects and are typically used for a limited time under close medical supervision.

Spongiotic Dermatitis Foods to Avoid

Spongiotic Dermatitis Foods to AvoidFood triggers vary from person to person, certain dietary factors can worsen symptoms in individuals with spongiotic dermatitis. However, dietary changes alone may not be sufficient to manage the condition, but they may complement other treatment strategies. Here are some common foods that people with the condition may consider avoiding

Allergenic Foods

You should avoid specific trigger foods if you have known food allergies or sensitivities. Common allergenic foods include milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish. Moreover, an allergist can help identify specific food allergies through allergy testing.

Food Additives

Some food additives, such as preservatives, artificial colors, and flavors, may trigger or worsen skin reactions in certain individuals. Examples include sulfites, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and food dyes. Check food labels and try to avoid processed foods that contain these additives.

Spicy Foods

Spicy foods like chili peppers, hot sauces, and curry spices can potentially exacerbate spongiotic dermatitis symptoms in some individuals. However, the capsaicin in chili peppers, in particular, may trigger skin inflammation and itching.

Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits contain high levels of citric acid, which can be irritating to the skin in some cases. However, it’s important to note that citrus fruits do not cause spongiotic dermatitis directly but may worsen symptoms in certain individuals.

Dairy Products

Dairy products, particularly full-fat milk, and cheeses, have been reported to worsen eczema symptoms in some individuals. However, research on the relationship between dairy and spongiotic dermatitis is limited, and individual responses may vary.

Gluten-Containing Foods

Those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity may experience skin inflammation if they consume gluten-containing grains like wheat, barley, and rye. However, there is limited evidence linking gluten directly to spongiotic dermatitis.

Will Spongiotic Dermatitis go away?

For acute cases of the condition, prompt treatment and avoiding triggers can resolve the condition within a couple of months. Moreover, with appropriate management and lifestyle modifications, many people experience periods of remission where their symptoms improve or disappear entirely.
Spongiotic dermatitis, however, can become chronic or recurrent, with periods of flare-ups and remissions. Furthermore, this may require long-term management to control symptoms and prevent exacerbations

What Autoimmune Disease Causes Spongiotic Dermatitis?

The illness is not typically considered an autoimmune disease itself. There are, however, autoimmune diseases that can manifest with skin involvement, including spongiotic dermatitis as a secondary consequence. The conditions that may cause inflammation and immune dysfunction that result in dermatological symptoms include

  • Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema)
  • Dermatitis Herpetiformis
  • Lupus Erythematosus
  • Dermatomyositis
  • Sjögren’s Syndrome


In conclusion, spongiotic dermatitis causes inflammation and itching of the skin. It is not considered an autoimmune disease itself, but it can be associated with certain autoimmune conditions as a secondary feature. However, the causes of the condition can vary and may include factors such as allergens, irritants, genetic predisposition, environmental triggers, yesstress, and infections. Moreover, its treatment focuses on reducing inflammation, relieving itching, and improving the skin barrier.
Some lifestyle modifications, such as avoiding trigger factors, maintaining proper skincare, and managing stress, are also important in managing the condition. While spongiotic dermatitis can resolve on its own in some cases, it can also become chronic or recurrent. Seeking medical attention from a dermatologist is essential for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.


MetroBoston Clinical Partners is a well established and experienced research center in the greater Boston area. Under the leadership of qualified physicians and medical professionals, we coordinate a range of clinical research trials in Dermatology and Internal Medicine.

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