Contact dermatitis (irritation of skin contact)

Skin | Dermatology | Contact dermatitis (irritation of skin contact) (Disease)


Contact dermatitis is disease in which the skin becomes red, sore, or inflamed after direct contact with a substance. Contact with a foreign substance or an allergen can cause localized contact dermatitis. Common causes are chemicals, plants, cosmetics, detergents, medications, solvents, and adhesives.

There are two kinds of contact dermatitis: irritant or allergic. They often can appear to be visually identical.

Allergic dermatitis is usually confined to the area where the trigger actually touched the skin, whereas irritant dermatitis may be more widespread on the skin.

Symptoms of both forms include the following:

(1) Red rash. This is the usual reaction. The rash appears immediately in irritant contact dermatitis; in allergic contact dermatitis, the rash sometimes does not appear until 24–72 hours after exposure to the allergen.

(2) Blisters or wheals. Blisters, wheals (welts), and urticaria (hives) often form in a pattern where skin was directly exposed to the allergen or irritant.

(3) Itchy, burning skin. Irritant contact dermatitis tends to be more painful than itchy, while allergic contact dermatitis often itches.

Causes and Risk factors

Irritant dermatitis, the most common type of contact dermatitis, involves inflammation resulting from contact with acids, alkaline materials such as soaps and detergents, solvents, or other chemicals. The reaction usually resembles a burn.

Allergic contact dermatitis is caused by exposure to a substance or material to which the patient has becomed extra sensitive or allergic. The allergic reaction is often delayed, with the rash appearing 24 - 48 hours after exposure. The skin inflammation varies from mild irritation and redness to open sores, depending on the type of irritant, the body part affected, and your sensitivity.

While either form of contact dermatitis can affect any part of the body, irritant contact dermatitis often affects the hands, which have been exposed by resting in or dipping into a container (sink, pail, tub, swimming pools with high chlorine) containing the irritant.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Medical professionals usually diagnose contact dermatitis from the symptoms and physical examination. Blood tests and X-rays are not helpful. Dermatitis treatment usually consists of drugs (corticosteroid, antihistamines) to relieve the symptoms until the rash can go away on its own. ...