Periocular dermatitis

Authors: Harini Rajgopal Bala, Research and Education Fellow; Jennifer Cahill, Dermatologist; Rosemary L Nixon, Dermatologist, Occupational Physician and Director; Occupational Dermatology Research and Education Centre (ODREC), Skin and Cancer Foundation Inc. Melbourne, Australia. November 2016.  

What is periocular dermatitis?

Periocular dermatitis is a localised form of periorificial dermatitis. It is characterised by small red scaly papules and pustules located around the eye [1].

Periorificial dermatitis includes perioral dermatitis or periocular dermatitis alone, or in association.

Who gets periocular dermatitis?

What causes periocular dermatitis?

The cause of periocular dermatitis is not well understood. It is thought to be due to a combination of environmental and genetic factors [3].

Periocular dermatitis may be related to [3,5]:

Triggers for periocular dermatitis

Medications [4,5]


Dental preparations [3]

Microorganisms [4,5]

Other triggers [4,5]

What are the clinical features of periocular dermatitis?

Clinical features of periocular dermatitis include:

How is periocular dermatitis diagnosed?

The clinical presentation of periocular dermatitis is usually typical, and thus it is generally diagnosed on clinical examination [4].

In the unlikely event that a skin biopsy is taken, the histology shows non-specific inflammation, with perifollicular or perivascular lymphohistiocytic infiltration [3,4].

What is the treatment for periocular dermatitis?

General measures

Topical therapy

Topical therapy may be effective for mild disease [3]. Options include [6]:

Oral therapy [4,6]

Oral therapies may be used alone or in addition to topical treatment for moderate and severe disease. Treatment may be required for up to 3 months.

What is the outcome for periocular dermatitis?

Periocular dermatitis usually resolves with appropriate management, although it may take some weeks or even months to clear up.

It can be prevented by avoiding applying potent topical corticosteroids and thick face creams around the eye.

Related information

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