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Dermatitis Can Have Many Causes

Food, cosmetics or a workplace chemical are often to blame, experts say

THURSDAY, Nov. 6 (HealthDay News) -- A wide variety of substances can cause the skin condition known as contact dermatitis, which often can be effectively managed with proper diagnosis and treatment, experts say.

Contact dermatitis is an acute or chronic inflammation of the skin resulting from contact with a chemical, biologic or physical agent. Common culprits include cosmetics, perfumes, certain foods, nickel and some other metals, cleaning solutions, detergents, industrial chemicals, and latex rubber.

The majority (20 percent to 35 percent) of all dermatitis cases affect the hands, including more than 75 percent of work-related contact dermatitis cases, according experts at the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) in Seattle.

"Allergic contact dermatitis of the hands is very common among certain occupations. This includes health-care professionals, hairdressers and cosmetologists, woodworkers, machinists, and chemical workers," Dr. James. S. Taylor, director of the Section of Industrial Dermatology at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, said in an ACAAI news release.

Patch testing is important in diagnosing hand dermatitis, since allergic contact dermatitis may occur alone or in conjunction with irritant, atopic or other forms of dermatitis, Taylor said. Treatment depends on the cause of the dermatitis.

"For allergic contact dermatitis, it involves allergen omission or substitution and generally using topical or occasionally systemic corticosteroids to relieve the symptoms," Taylor said.

The second most common sites for dermatitis are the face and eyelids, often due to a reaction to a cosmetic, soap or other personal care product.

"The patient has often switched to a new brand of makeup or a different cleanser right before the skin outbreak occurred. We will usually treat the condition with a topical corticosteroid and have the patient stop using the product," Dr. Vincent A. DeLeo, chairman of dermatology at St. Luke's-Roosevelt and Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, said in the ACAAI news release.

Patch testing usually isn't necessary in cases of face/eyelid dermatitis, but may be warranted if the patient continues to have flare-ups despite changing skin care products and receiving topical treatment, DeLeo said.

More information

The MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia has more about contact dermatitis.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, news release, Nov. 6, 2008

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