Contact Dermatitis

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Contact dermatitis is a bumpy patch of red, itchy, flaky skin. It occurs whensomeone has an allergicreaction after coming into contact with something that irritateshis or her skin. The substance that irritates the skin is known as an allergen,and it triggers the allergic reaction.

What is going on in the body?

Contact dermatitis occurs when someone has been exposed to a substance thatirritates the skin or causes an allergic reaction. People are morelikely to have contact dermatitis if they have sensitive skin or a pre-existingskin condition.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Some of the more common allergens that trigger contact dermatitis include thefollowing:

  • soaps
  • fabric softeners
  • perfumes
  • cosmetics
  • nickel, which may be found in jewelry, zippers, buckles, hair ornaments,and other accessories
  • deodorants
  • plants, such as poison ivy,poison oak, or poison sumac
  • rubber, such as in shoe linings or latex gloves
  • hair dyes, especially permanent dyes containing paraphenylenediamine, orPPD
  • dyes used in clothing, which may contain PPD
  • certain localanesthesia medications, including benzocaine, which is chemicallyrelated to PPD
  • neomycin, an antibiotic commonly found in over-the-counter antibioticointments
  • chromates, which are chemicals commonly found in cement, leather, paints,matches, and anti-rust products
  • Symptoms & Signs

    What are the signs and symptoms of the condition?

    The allergic reaction of contact dermatitis causes skin to redden, itch, andform blisters. The skin may crack, and a sticky fluid may ooze out. Finally,the skin may become dry and peeling may occur.

    Diagnosis & Tests

    How is the condition diagnosed?

    Contact dermatitis is usually self-diagnosed. Repeated rashes are typical. Thiscan, however, become a regular event. The person’s healthcare provider maysuggest doing a patch test. This test applies different substances to the skinso the reaction can be observed.

    Prevention & Expectations

    What can be done to prevent the condition?

    To prevent contact dermatitis, a person can take the following steps:

  • Substitute vinyl gloves, if he or she has an allergic reaction to latex orother forms of rubber.
  • Choose hypoallergenic perfumes, cosmetics, deodorants, and jewelry.
  • Wear gloves, long pants, and long sleeves for protection from poison ivy,poison oak, and poison sumac plants.
  • Apply hypoallergenic lotion to skin often.
  • Once an individual is aware of allergens that triggertheir contact dermatitis, they should take steps to avoid the trigger. Forexample, people sensitive to PPD can use temporary hair rinses or dyes that arePPD-free. A person sensitive to neomycin ointment should use antibioticointments that don’t contain that medication.

    What are the long-term effects of the condition?

    If contact dermatitis is not treated effectively, the individual may havealmost constant outbreaks of the allergic reaction. Skin may become veryirritated, with skin thickening and changes in color. Secondary infections canoccur.

    What are the risks to others?

    Contact dermatitis is not contagious and poses no risk to others.

    Treatment & Monitoring

    What are the treatments for the condition?

    Treatment of contact dermatitis may include the following measures:

  • Avoiding and removing allergens.
  • Applying Burow’s solution or cool water compresses.
  • Taking oral antihistamines to relieve itching.
  • Using antibiotics as needed for infection.
  • Applying over-the-counter or prescription corticosteroid creams, such ashydrocortisone or betamethasone.
  • Taking oral steroids such as prednisone.
  • Avoiding hot water, which worsens the allergic reaction.
  • Avoiding scratching the infected area to prevent its spread.
  • Applying hypoallergenic lotion to the skin often.
  • What are the side effects of the treatments?

    Corticosteroid creams may cause thinning of the skin over time. Oralcorticosteroids can decrease the body’s ability to fight infection.Antihistamines may cause drowsiness, dry mouth, and dizziness. Antibiotics may cause rash, stomach upset, or allergic reactions.

    What happens after treatment for the condition?

    After the contact dermatitis is gone, it’s important to avoid future contactwith the substance that caused the allergic reaction.

    How is the condition monitored?

    Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider.

    Article type: xmedgeneral