Contact dermatitis

There are over a thousand entities in dermatology; it is difficult to understand all in just a few pages. We are going to describe a few common skin problems. This is purely educational; if you have a skin disease, please consult your dermatologist.

Contact dermatitis is extremely common, and is the most commonly encountered occupational disease. There are 2 types of contact dermatitis. Allergic contact dermatitis is a delayed hypersensitivity reaction, which are often asymptomatic until 2-3 days later. When our skin is in contact with an allergen which we cannot tolerate, the skin will turn red, become itchy and may form blisters. Common allergens are nickel and chromium which are often found in the accessories we wear, such as ear-ring studs. Other examples are latex rubber, textile dyes, food additives and perfume.

Irritant contact dermatitis is caused by repeated contact of skin irritants, it normally takes quite some time of repeated exposure before the appearance of symptoms. Such irritants may be very simple things that we encounter in everyday life. The skin may turn red in colour and may thicken after contact, the hands being the most frequently affected area. The irritation may cause pain, itch and cracking. Common examples include frequent hand washers (hair dressers), fibre-glass workers and garage workers.

Treatment aims at finding the allergen or irritant, and to avoid them if possible; using medical emollient to clean the affected skin; and using topical steroids to alleviate the inflammation.

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