(inflammation of the skin), is a common problem which affects most
people at some time. It usually results in red, swollen or blistered,
intensely itchy areas of skin.
people with an allergic tendency, often inherited, will suffer from the
chronic form of dermatitis known as eczema.
This is sometimes referred to as "endogenous" (meaning from within)
many others will experience a form of dermatitis called "exogenous",
(or "contact") dermatitis. Exogenous means due to external factors.
Contact dermatitis is the result of direct contact with a variety of
Types of contact dermatitis:
are two types of contact dermatitis: irritant and allergic.
Irritant contact dermatitis
contact dermatitis is produced by the direct chemical effect of certain
substances on the skin. The severity of the dermatitis will depend on
how long the substance is in contact with the skin and the
concentration of the offending material.
causes of irritant contact dermatitis include detergents and solvents,
acids, alkalis, oils and skin cleansers.
occupations are more prone to this form of dermatitis. These include:
Allergic contact dermatitis
"allergic" form of contact dermatitis is less common, affecting a small
number of people who, for some reason, become sensitive to certain
common everyday substances. They may have been in contact with these
materials for years before the sensitivity develops.
most common cause of allergic contact dermatitis, usually affecting
women, is nickel. This is found in many metal objects worn next, or
close, to the skin. Costume jewellery, metal studs on jeans or sleepers
in pierced ears are usually to blame.
allergens (things causing allergy) are chromates (especially in
cement), rubber and some creams and ointments used for medical purposes.
What to do when you have contact dermatitis
contact dermatitis is suspected, the obvious first step is to try to
find the cause. With an irritant cause this is usually easy, especially
as the skin problem is often confined to those areas actually in direct
contact with the irritant.
an allergic cause the rash may be more widespread, making
identification of the cause harder. If the rash is less obvious at
weekends or during holidays, it is probably due to a work-related
streaky rash is often due to an allergy to a plant which the affected
person has brushed past. Primula, Rhus tree and chrysanthemum are
examples of plants which can cause problems.
patch testing, in which a number of suspected materials are applied to
separate areas of skin for up to 48 hours, will solve the mystery.
of contact dermatitis usually means the use of corticosteroid creams or
possible, contact with the cause of the dermatitis must stop. This
might mean abandoning a favourite piece of jewellery, or taking
meticulous care always to wear protective gloves when doing housework.