Contact Dermatitis

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis involves an inflammation of the skin caused by contact with a foreign substance. Common triggers of contact dermatitis include poison ivy, certain foods, cleaning products, detergents, cosmetics and latex rubber. When a patient comes in contact with one of these triggers, he/she may experience a red rash, blistering, itchiness, dryness and more. Symptoms caused by contact dermatitis may a result of an immune system reaction or from an external allergic reaction to the specific trigger.

Triggers For Dermatitis

While an individual may develop contact dermatitis from a great variety of irritants, common culprits are:

  • Some fabrics or materials
  • Particular plants, like poison ivy
  • Soaps, detergents, cleansers, fabric softeners
  • Perfumes, hair dyes, shampoos, lotions, ointments
  • Urine in wet diapers
  • Pesticides or weed killers
  • Nickel, rubber, latex
  • Solvents or chemicals
  • Resins or glues

Symptoms Of Contact Dermatitis

In addition to an area of itchy redness on the skin, contact dermatitis may also result in: swelling, scaling, blistering, painful sores or cracked skin. One of the significant clues to the fact that the condition is, in fact, contact dermatitis is the fact that the rash occurs only in a defined area, such as under a ring or watchband, or at the place where a particular material touches the skin. At times, when the condition is more severe, the skin may bleed or appear to have been burned by the offending substance. Symptoms may develop upon first contact or may develop only after a period of exposure.

Diagnosis Of Contact Dermatitis

Apart from inspection of the area and a medical history, the doctor may take a small skin biopsy or culture to help confirm the diagnosis. A patch test may also be administered to investigate the nature of the substance causing the irritation.

Treatment For Contact Dermatitis

In many cases, contact dermatitis will resolve on its own, particularly if it is possible for the patient to identify and avoid the material causing the problem. Sometimes over-the-counter antipruritic (anti-itch) creams may be sufficient to cure the condition. If necessary, physicians may prescribe corticosteroids and antihistamines to alleviate ongoing symptoms. The former reduce inflammation and the latter lessen allergic reaction and diminish itching.

Complications Of Contact Dermatitis

The most likely complication of contact dermatitis is a bacterial infection for which antibiotics may be prescribed. A serious lifestyle complication may occur when the contact dermatitis is caused by a material integral to the patient’s work environment and a change of employment must be considered.

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