Have you developed red itchy bumps after hiking? Has the new necklace left a rash after you wore it for hours? Does a day at the beach leave you with a red face?
Jewelry made from gold and nickel, detergents, poison ivy, and sunscreen can sometimes cause dermatitis – which is often caused by exposure to something to which you are allergic or sensitive.
What is Contact Dermatitis?
Dermatitis refers to inflammation of the skin and is also known as eczema. It results in a red and itchy skin which may also cause blisters. Contact dermatitis refers to a particular kind of skin infection which is caused by certain substances found in the environment. While most of the reactions are not severe, however, they look rather unpleasant.
The inflamed area appears red and swelled and at times the skin may have blisters. This condition can cause discomfort to the patient and in severe cases can also interfere with the person’s ability to work. Contact dermatitis is treated for patients in Manhattan, Brooklyn and throughout the New York City area.
Contact Dermatitis Causes
Three types of contact dermatitis have been known. These are:
- Allergic contact dermatitis
- Photo-contact dermatitis
- Irritant contact dermatitis
While photo-contact dermatitis is the least common, allergic contact dermatitis is the most common type of contact dermatitis.
Allergic Contact Dermatitis
Allergic contact dermatitis occurs when a person develops an allergic reaction after coming in contact with a foreign substance. In this case, the body releases inflammatory chemicals which make the skin irritated and itchy.
Some of the most common causes of this type include:
- Latex gloves
- Poison oak
- Chemicals in cosmetics
Photo Contact Dermatitis
It is usually caused by excessive exposure to the sun or when certain chemicals are applied to the skin. Generally, it arises from the interaction between one of the listed products and UV radiation.
- Coal tar product
Irritant Contact Dermatitis
A person may experience contact dermatitis when he comes in contact with a substance that irritates his skin. The irritants can also cause inflammation if they stay in contact with the skin for a long time.
Some of the examples of irritants are:
- Powder or soil
- Hard water
- Certain plants
Contact Dermatitis is extremely common. At work, at home, in the garden and elsewhere we are exposed to innumerable chemicals, metals, plants, etc. Thus, there is always the possibility that some of them may cause a reaction in susceptible individuals.
Contact Dermatitis Symptoms
The symptoms of contact dermatitis depend on how sensitive a person is and what is the cause of the disease. Some of the most commonly seen symptoms include:
- Skin redness, dry, scaly, flaky skin
- Oozing or dry blisters
- Skin that appears darkened or leathery
- Swelling – especially in the eyes, face, or groin areas
- Extreme itching
- Sun sensitivity
- Skin that burns with or without sores
The symptoms also easily develop on any part of the body; however hands and face are the most easily affected areas. Symptoms usually appear within 48 hours and may cause mild to severe reactions.
Sometimes the patient may also experience some additional symptoms that depend on the substance that has reacted. Signs of infection caused by contact dermatitis are:
- Increasing pain
- Feeling of not being well
- Existing symptoms get worse
- High temperature
- Discharge from the skin
How does Contact Dermatitis develop?
Contact Dermatitis may develop in two different ways:
- Through Irritation
The first way through which contact dermatitis can develop is through irritation – mechanical or chemical. An example of mechanical irritant is the scratchiness of wool clothing next to the body or irritation caused by prickly fiberglass particles. Chemical irritant includes irritation caused by cleaning compound or detergents.
If the skin irritant is weak the initial reaction will be mild; however, if the irritant is strong, you may experience a violent inflammatory reaction. The skin becomes itchy, swollen and develops blisters.
- Through Sensitization
If you are developing contact dermatitis through sensitization, there will be no immediate trouble; however, the exposure will change the sensitivity of the skin. Later on, when the skin comes in contact with the same substance, it causes inflammation.
Who gets Contact Dermatitis?
Anybody, whether a male or a female can get contact dermatitis; however, it depends on the level of exposure of the person to the irritant. The condition is most commonly seen in housewives, industrial workers, beauticians, auto mechanics, and bricklayers as they constantly stay in touch with the irritant.
Are Certain Body Parts More Prone to Be Affected By Contact Dermatitis?
Yes, it’s true that some body parts are prone to be developing contact dermatitis more easily than others. The hands are routinely exposed to different kind of irritants and thus can easily be affected by contact dermatitis. However, the face and the rest of the body are equally susceptible. A variety of cosmetic products such as soap, cream, shaving cream, lipstick and aftershave lotion are used on the face which increases its chances of acquiring this disease.
In certain cases, the airborne substances may also cause severe rashes to exposed parts of the body. For instance, contact dermatitis develops on people who are sensitive to poison ivy when they go hiking or when exposed to burning poison ivy leaves smoke.
Contact Dermatitis Diagnosis
If you are experiencing the symptoms, which are not improving with time, it is the best time that you consult a doctor. In certain cases, the doctor will be able to tell the cause of the rash by looking at the location where it has developed. For example, the probable cause of a rash around the wrist is due to a watch and one across the forehead may be caused by a headband.
However, in maximum cases, identifying the cause becomes difficult. Therefore, in such a condition, the doctor may ask you a number of questions. The question resolves around what you do, what is your job location, do you use protective gloves at your job, are you allergic to washing dishes or clothes, what are your hobbies etc.
You should corporate with the doctor and try remembering all the past activities that you have indulged in. You should also tell the doctor whether you have recently changed your workplace or have been away to a new destination. By knowing about such situations, the doctor will get a clue to detect the cause.
Patch Test – Have You Heard About Them?
Patients suffering from contact dermatitis often undertake the patch test to check the real cause of infection. In the patch test, a small amount of the suspected material is applied on the healthy skin of forearm or back and further covered with a band-aid. The patch is left on the skin for 24 hours to 48 hours and then examined to see whether there is any kind of reaction on the skin. The skin is further examined after 48 hours to check the case of delayed reaction.
If the results show swelling, redness and blistering on the patch area, it actually means that this is the substance you are allergic from. A positive patch test pinpoint towards the trouble making substance.
Doctor will decide whether you need a patch test, and what substance should be tested, after careful consideration of your medical history and study of the location and appearance of your rash. Never try a patch test yourself, it may cause serious harm.
Contact Dermatitis Treatment
The main motive behind treatment offered to the patients suffering from contact dermatitis is to avoid the offending substance. However, the patient can also suffer from itchy skin, soreness, swelling or scaly skin. Therefore, it is important to offer initial treatment to clear up the symptoms.
Use a moisturizer or an emollient to settle down the inflammation and clear the rashes. Doctors always recommend substituting your soap with a moisturizing cream based face wash.
Doctor will select an appropriate treatment, depending on the degree of inflammation of the skin. The treatment often ranges from wet dressing to preparations with cortisone derivatives and lotions. In selected case, the doctor may even prescribe or administer medications such as cortisone or antihistamines derivatives by injection. These medications aim at reducing inflammation and itching.
What to Expect From Treatment?
Doctor will help you identify the real cause of rashes thus advising you to avoid it. However, if the real cause is not yet identified, all the possible causes should be eliminated. By undergoing an appropriate treatment, the rash, and the itching will disappear gradually.
The rashes result from repeated contact and come across as a thick, dry skin. The rashes heal gradually leaving behind a patch of dark skin which eventually fades away with time.
How can Contact Dermatitis be Controlled?
- Leave the rash alone and avoid scratching it. Scratching the rash often leads to bacterial infection leading to the formation of blisters.
- Follow the doctor’s instruction and avoid any contact with a causative substance. Always use prescribed medicines and take care of the affected area.
- Inflamed skin is more susceptible to irritation by different agents; therefore, try to avoid contact with chemicals.