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Educational articles.

Contact Dermatitis

Itchy, scaly rash on your hands? Dry, cracked lips and rash around the mouth? Scales and rashes under the eyelids? Rashes anywhere else on your body? This all could be a condition known as contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis can cause discomfort and embarrassment and is the most common skin condition among workers' compensation claims.

Contact dermatitis refers to any dermatitis arising from direct skin exposure to an exogenous substance. The dermatitis may either be allergic or irritant-induced. Irritant-induced contact dermatitis accounts for 80% of cases of contact dermatitis, and allergic-induced contact dermatitis accounts for 20% of cases. In allergic contact dermatitis, an allergen induces an immune response, while in irritant contact dermatitis the trigger substance itself directly damages the skin. Contact dermatitis is a common cause of occupational disease, accounting for 30%-40% of all occupational illnesses and 90% of occupational skin diseases. The most common sensitizer in North America is the plant oleoresin urushiol found in poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. Other common sensitizers in the US include nickel (jewelry), formaldehyde (clothing, nail polish), fragrances (perfume, cosmetics), preservatives (topical medications, cosmetics), rubber, and chemicals in shoes (both leather and synthetic). Hypersensitivity to a number of medications may also occur.

Tracing its relation to causative factors is difficult. However, here at The Allergy Clinic, our expert physicians with detailed knowledge about this disease process can perform special customized tests using your cosmetics, perfumes, hair products, etc, to see if these agents are causing your symptoms of contact allergy. Patch testing can help identify or confirm contact allergens and is the gold standard for contact allergen identification. Our medical staff will take a detailed history, and then you will have one on one physician consultation to come up with the best identification and treatment plan that is right for you.

Note: Information contained in this article should not be considered a substitute for consultation with a board-certified allergist to address individual medical needs.