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Home :: Dermatitis, Contact

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is an eczema-like skin reaction that is produced by exposure to an irritating substance such as detergents, soaps, certain plants, and solvents. Contact dermatitis is not contagious.

Causes

  • Contact with irritants, such as adhesive tape, acids or solvents. The irritant removes the fatty layer of skin. This causes dehydration and shrinking of surface cells.
  • Hot weather and increased sweating.
  • Constant exposure to hot water, soap and detergents, or any irritant that changes the moisture content of skin.
  • Burns from hot water or sunburn.

Signs and symptoms

  • Itching (sometimes).
  • Slight redness.
  • Cracks and fissures in the skin.
  • Bright red, weeping areas (severe cases).

Diagnosis

Contact dermatitis is diagnosed according to a pattern of symptoms. Your doctor will take a complete medical history and ask you questions about the types of substances you have regular contact with or had contact with right before the symptoms appeared. If your doctor suspects allergic contact dermatitis, but it is difficult to identify the allergen, he or she may perform a patch test. The doctor will place a small patch on your skin for a period of two days. The patch contains some common allergens that cause contact dermatitis. After the patch is removed, the doctor will check for a reaction over the next few days.

Treatment

Initial treatment includes thorough washing with lots of water to remove any trace of the irritant that may remain on the skin. Further exposure to known irritants or allergens should be avoided.

In some cases, the best treatment is to do nothing to the area.

Topical corticosteroid medications may reduce inflammation. Carefully adhere to instructions when using topical steroids because overuse of these medications, even low-strength over-the-counter topical steroids, may cause a troublesome skin condition. In severe cases, systemic corticosteroids may be needed to reduce inflammation. These are usually tapered gradually over about 12 days to prevent recurrence of the rash.

Medication

Your doctor may prescribe topical creams, ointments or lotions. These may include corticosteroid preparations to reduce inflammation or lubricants to preserve moisture.

Home Treatment-

  • Avoid the chemical or material causing the skin eruption.
  • Use bath oil instead of soap for bathing.
  • Pat skin dry rather than rubbing it.
  • Reduce water temperature to lukewarm for bathing or other uses.
  • Use only cream, lotion or ointment prescribed for the condition. Other commercial products may aggravate the condition. Apply ointment or cream to hands 6 or 7 times a day. For other body parts, lubricate twice a day, especially after bathing.
Prevention
  • Avoid contact with any irritant which has caused dermatitis in the past.
  • Protect skin from sunburn and other burns.
  • When exposure cannot be avoided in the workplace, contact with those chemicals can be minimized by wearing protective gloves and clothing.
  • Avoid over-treating skin disorders.


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