Dermatitis Information

There are many types such as atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, stasis dermatitis, dyshidrotic dermatitis, and nummular dermatitis. Although symptoms are similar, each type has characteristic features. Atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis and seborrheic dermatitis are considered common in the general population, and contact dermatitis is associated with occupational skin disease.

Atopic dermatitis (often called eczema) is a chronic condition, recurring many times during a person’s life. Some people with atopic dermatitis have a personal and family history of allergies (such as hay fever or asthma). Atopic dermatitis may also be related to a person’s immune response to substances that are normally considered harmless. A diagnosis of atopic dermatitis is based on medical history, symptoms, and may also include atopy patch testing.
Seborrheic dermatitis is usually associated with red and flaking patches of skin. It is often found on the scalp ( dandruff ), as well as the nose, eyebrows, ears, and chest where hair follicles occur. Seborrheic dermatitis may be associated with an unusual immune reaction to a fungal infection. It can occur in healthy infants, children and adults, as well as patients with compromised immune systems. Infections, dry weather, oily skin, stress and other factors can make seborrheic dermatitis worse.
No. Dermatitis symptoms such as redness, itching, warmth, swelling, scaling, cracking or pain are common and not specific. Your doctor will probably use your symptoms, medical and occupational history, and specific testing to determine what type of dermatitis you have.
Keep a “diary” of when your symptoms appear, get worse or improve. It also helps to write down where your symptoms occur on your body, and how long they last. If you notice that your skin gets worse after certain activities, record the reaction and the activity in as much detail as possible.
Workers in some occupations are more likely to develop allergic contact dermatitis, so it’s important to describe your work to your doctor. If you handle chemicals during the day, make a list of these or find their Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS).
Successful treatment of dermatitis symptoms depends on getting an accurate diagnosis from your physician. Depending on the type of dermatitis and the severity of skin reactions, a physician may advise specific allergen avoidance, and/or prescribe corticosteroids, antifungal agents, antihistamines, barrier creams, and moisturizers for your skin, shampoos with salicylic acid, selenium, zinc, or coal tar, and oral medications. These treatments are intended to treat your symptoms and improve your skin’s condition.
Because there is often no cure for dermatitis, your physician should discuss ways to avoid allergen and/or irritant contact, and how to take better care of your skin. In addition, reducing stress can improve your immune system response and help restore your skin’s normal integrity [Choi et al, 2005].

Education on Contact Dermatitis and Patch Testing

Contact dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin at the area of contact. There are two types of contact dermatitis – irritant and allergic. Symptoms include itching, redness, warmth, swelling, cracking, pain, scaling and crusting. Skin can crack, bleed and ooze, depending on the severity of the reaction. Dermatitis can occur from exposure to the environment (such as dry weather), chemicals (such as harsh soaps), allergens (such as nickel) and physical trauma (such as abrasion). Your physician may diagnose irritant or allergic contact dermatitis from your medical history, occupation, symptoms, and patch testing. Treatment of both irritant and allergic contact dermatitis is based on avoiding contact with the substance(s) that caused the reaction.
This non-specific inflammatory condition develops after skin is exposed to substances that are physically, chemically or mechanically traumatizing. Symptoms are usually confined to the area of contact, recur with additional irritant exposure and may be difficult to distinguish from allergic contact dermatitis.
Irritant contact dermatitis occurs in response to irritating substances such as household cleaners, harsh soaps and industrial solvents. Your skin can react to these substances within minutes or hours, and stops reacting soon after they are gone.
Allergic contact dermatitis occurs from a person’s immune response to contact allergens, such as fragrances, preservatives, nickel, gold, and many others. Allergic reactions to contact allergens develop hours or days after exposure, and may take weeks to heal. A personal or family history of other allergies may increase a person’s chance of developing this skin condition.
In already sensitized individuals, this immunologic response is elicited by contact with a specific allergen or closely related chemical. Symptoms typically manifest 24 to 72 hours after allergen exposure, vary in intensity and often include itching and vesiculation. More than 3,000 chemicals are reportedly capable of causing allergic contact dermatitis but relatively few allergens account for most cases. These common allergens form the basis of diagnostic patch testing that is used to differentiate allergic from irritant contact dermatitis.
Allergic contact dermatitis is responsible for approximately half of all contact dermatitis cases. Patients with persistent, unresolved contact dermatitis can suffer for years with a diminished quality of life and increased medical treatment costs. However, the condition can be effectively treated once an accurate diagnosis is obtained.
Allergen exposure is influenced by climate, occupation, cultural habits, and regulations. The prevalence of contact allergy against specific allergens differs among countries as a result in changes and developments in surrounding environments and societies. (Thyssen et al 2007) In the United States, estimates of prevalence range from 5% to 50%, depending on population and defining criteria. According to a 2005 report by The Society for Investigative Dermatology and The American Academy of Dermatology, contact dermatitis is associated with more than 9 million physician office visits and as many as 10% of all dermatology clinic visits. Treating contact dermatitis costs approximately $1.4 billion annually, with significant losses (~$500 million) attributed to missed workdays and low productivity. (Bickers et al. 2006) In the UK, occupational contact dermatitis is the most frequently reported occupational skin disease in developed countries and accounts for between 70% and 90% of all reported cases of occupational skin disease. The annual population incidence of occupational contact dermatitis ranges from an estimated 5.7 to 101 cases per 100,000 workers per year. The most reliable studies estimate the incidence to be between 11 and 86 cases per 100 000 workers per year. (Nicholson et al. 2010) Experts believe these numbers may underestimate the impact of contact dermatitis.