There are more than one type of eczema and contact dermatitis is one of them. As the name suggest, contact dermatitis is a type of eczema that occurs in people via contact usually direct contact. It is of two types – allergic and irritant. Allergic Contact dermatitis results from reaction to allergen while irritant contact dermatitis is the result of direct reaction to detergent such as sodium lauryl sulphate. Irritant contact dermatitis is the most common occupational skin condition and it is responsible for 3 quarter of the cases of contact eczema. Irritant contact dermatitis is also known as hand dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis is also called allergic hand dermatitis.
Contact dermatitis results from exposure to allergens or irritants. Phototoxic dermatitis results when allergen or irritants are activated by exposure to sunlight. Inflammation of the skin occurs only on the region where the skin is affected by a foreign substance (allergen or irritants). The rash takes days to go away unlike with contact urticarial in which the rash appears and disappears within minutes or hours. This only happens if the skin is no longer in contact with the allergen or irritant. The symptom of a contact dermatitis is a large, burning, itchy rashes in the epidermis and dermis of the skin. Other symptoms are red rash that appears immediately in irritant contact dermatitis while the rash itself doesn’t manifest until 24-72 hours in allergic contact dermatitis. The rashes can take from days to weeks to heal and chronic contact dermatitis can develop when the elimination of the allergen or irritant that caused the skin condition no longer provides relief. Blisters or wheals are also developed in a pattern on the skin that came in direct contact with the allergen or irritant.
In case of irritant contact dermatitis, the initial signs are dry, chapped skin. After repeated exposure the skin cracks, scales and becomes excessively dry. Sores and blisters may develop which will later erupt and form crusts and scales. Exposure to strong irritant will cause the skin to burn, sting and or itch. The skin turns red, swells and blisters form with or without sales forming.
The cause of allergic contact dermatitis are plants such as poison ivy, poison sumac and western poison oak. Harsh, alkaline soaps, detergents and cleaning products are responsible for irritant contact dermatitis along with bilobol which is an alkyl resorcinol that is found in Gingko biloba fruits. Substances such as nickel, cosmetics, and fabrics are also known to cause contact dermatitis. The skin becomes thick, red and scaly resulting from long term exposure to an allergen. The skin can also become dark and leathery over time. There are over 3,000 allergens that cause allergic contact dermatitis. Even antibiotic ointments causes allergic skin reaction resulting in allergic contact dermatitis. Wet concrete and rubber accelerators such as mouse pads to gym equipment are other common causes.
Unlike other skin conditions, contact dermatitis can develop on anyone with sufficient exposure to something that damages the skin and cause irritation as well as anyone who’s allergic to something. There is no exact demographic or type of people that it occurs in such as infants, people based on gender etc. however, younger people are more susceptible to allergic contact dermatitis. People with a medical history of atopic dermatitis, psoriasis increases the risk factor.
Prevention is a must when dealing with contact dermatitis treatment because it cannot be treated as long as the allergen or irritant is still in contact with the skin. Also direct contact to the allergen or irritant is necessary to result in the skin condition. There are also self-care methods that can be applied at home. After coming in contact with the allergen or irritant, it is necessary to immediately wash the region with soap and cool water. Weak acid solutions such as lemon juice and vinegar can be used to neutralise the effects of the skin condition.
Infected person must avoid scratching as it might lead to secondary infections. Apply cold moist compress for 30 minutes 3 times a day for relief if blisters develops on the skin. Barrier cream that contain zinc oxide such as Desitin can help protect and retain moisture in the skin. Creams and lotions such as Calamine and Oral antihistamines such as Benadryl, Ben-Allergin can help relieve itching. Sometimes, there can be side-effects from some of the over-the-counter emollients which can irritate the skin. Since contact dermatitis causes the skin to be more sensitive, the skin can react to certain ingredients in the over-the-counter emollients such as perfumes used as an ingredient. If this happens, then you need to stop using it and consult your doctor. Topical corticosteroids also causes sides if used for long periods. The side effects are thinning of the skin, visible blood vessels and acne.
Since UV rays can cause an allergic reaction, it is important to take preventive measures. Sunscreen can also cause allergic contact dermatitis is a lot of care needs to be taken.
The home remedies can be used as contact dermatitis treatment however, if the skin condition doesn’t improve after 2 or 3 days, then you need to consult a dermatologist or a doctor. Medical contact dermatitis treatment usually consists of lotions, creams and oral medication such as corticosteroids and antihistamines. Prescribed steroids can be taken in the form of pills or lotion and antibiotics maybe necessary. Since, irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis can occur from everyday objects and sunlight, it is best to have patch testing which is more commonly known as allergy testing.