There are two types of dermatitis that are often confused; irritant and allergic contact dermatitis. Irritant contact dermatitis is a condition in which the epidermis is unable to repair the skin as quickly as the skin is being damaged by an irritant such as detergents or household cleaners. However, allergic contact dermatitis occurs only when the skin comes into direct contact with something that is not known to normally present a problem.
The typical features of allergic contact dermatitis are very similar in appearance to other forms of dermatitis. These features are most often confined to the location where contact has occurred on the skin. Sometimes the signs extend past the point of contact and appear generalised. This is because allergens trigger histamine responses, which can lead to generalised inflammation.
Allergic contact dermatitis usually appears as:
- Dry or bumpy skin
Allergic contact dermatitis can occur anywhere on the body and can even take the shape of the item that has led to the reaction. For instance, a patient with a nickel watch may show signs of allergic contact dermatitis in the area of the watch. Someone who is allergic to a preservative in facial cream will have a reaction only on the face. Many patients also inadvertently spread the allergen by touching the region with their fingertips and then touching other areas of the body. It is not unusual for a dermatologist to find a patient with the symptoms on the area of contact, in addition to other areas such as the eyes, face or hands.
It is helpful to visit a dermatologist if you feel you have an allergic contact dermatitis. Patients can be tested with a panel of common allergens to see if there is a reaction. Once the materials have been identified, it is recommended the patient to remove them from their home or workplace and to find ways of avoiding direct contact in the future.
If a reaction is persistent or unavoidable, emollient creams, topical or oral steroids, immunosuppressive formulas, or special immune modulating creams that help to reduce the reaction to the dermatitis may be provided.
If you have any questions or concerns about allergic contact dermatitis contact your local doctor, who will arrange for you to see a dermatologist. Contact us today.