What is it?
Contact dermatitis is a localized rash, inflammation or irritation of the skin caused by contact with a foreign substance. The immune system overreacts to the foreign substance, usually an animal or vegetable protein. The immune system is activated to produce antibodies against this allergen. This overreaction is often called a hypersensitivity reaction. The antibody, called immunoglobulin E or IgE, is stored on special cells called mast cells. When they come in contact with the allergen, the antibodies promote the release of chemicals and hormones called “mediators.” It is the effects of the mediators that cause the symptoms of the allergic reaction, in this case, an itchy rash.
What are the causes of contact dermatitis?
Substances that cause contact dermatitis in many people include plants such as poison oak, certain foods, some metals, cleaning solutions, detergents, cosmetics, perfumes, industrial chemicals, and latex rubber. These substances may cause either primary irritant contact dermatitis or allergic eczematous contact dermatitis.
What symptoms will I notice?
The following are the most common symptoms of contact dermatitis. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently.
Symptoms may include:
Blistering of the skin
Mild redness and swelling of the skin
Scaling and temporary thickening of the skin
The most severe reaction is at the contact site. The symptoms of contact dermatitis may resemble other skin conditions. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis. The diagnosis may require topical patch testing.
What are the treatments?
Specific treatment for contact dermatitis will be determined by our physicians based on:
The extent of the reaction
Expectations for the course of the reaction
Your age, overall health, and medical history
Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures or therapies