What is contact dermatitis and what are the different types?

Do you have an itchy skin rash that won’t go away? Have you turned your life upside down trying to find a cause? Do you worry that something you’re using every day could be keeping your rash from clearing up? If so, you could be suffering from contact dermatitis.

Contact dermatitis is a type of allergic reaction that can cause an itchy, red rash to appear after your skin comes into contact with a substance you are allergic to. This condition can significantly impair your quality of life due to the frustration, discomfort, and potential embarrassment you may feel from having a persistent rash, especially in a visible or awkward area. If this describes you, don’t fear! There are options to help you identify exactly what contact allergen causing your skin reaction, enabling you to take steps to avoid the triggers and get back to your normal life. Let’s explore what you need to know about the causes of and how to treat contact dermatitis.

Contact dermatitis is a common skin disorder, affecting up to 1 in 5 people. It is caused when your skin becomes sensitized to everyday items like soaps, detergents, cosmetics, metals, and topical medications. The symptoms of contact dermatitis include an itchy, red, and in severe cases, blistering rash. There are two main types of contact dermatitis: allergic and irritant. 

Allergic contact dermatitis occurs when your immune system becomes sensitized to a substance. Following repeated skin exposure to this substance, an inflammatory reaction ensues. Interestingly, sensitization can occur to products that you have used and tolerated for many years. Once you are sensitized, exposure can cause more inflammation and lead to a continuous rash. Even after removing the source, it can take days, weeks, or even months for the allergic reaction to clear due to the ongoing activation of your immune system.

Irritant contact dermatitis, while having similar characteristics, does not involve your immune system. Instead, direct contact with the substance causes dryness and inflammation leading to the appearance of a rash. Fortunately, irritant contact dermatitis tends to clear more quickly after the removal of the offending agent, so you will usually be able to tell if you have a rash due to irritant versus allergic contact dermatitis.

Unfortunately, it can often be difficult to identify what is causing allergic contact dermatitis on your own. Given how long it can take for the skin rash to resolve, even after the removal of the allergen from your life, it is important to identify what is triggering your symptoms as soon as possible. The sooner you can figure out the cause and avoid it, the sooner you can get back to your normal life!

 

What are some common causes of contact dermatitis?

  1. Metals (such as jewelry, buttons, snaps, belt buckles, and silverware)
  2. Soaps and detergents (even the “hypoallergenic” kind)
  3. Fragrances and perfumes
  4. Cosmetics and skincare products (even “natural” cosmetics)
  5. Hair dyes and hair straighteners
  6. Topical medications and ointments (including topical steroids)
  7. Cleaning products and other solvents and chemicals
  8. Rubber and latex products
  9. Neomycin and other topical antibiotics
  10. Adhesives and glues
  11. Poison ivy (though this does not typically require a test)

 

How to treat and prevent contact dermatitis.

Although many similar products may cause both an irritant or allergic contact dermatitis, it is difficult to know the difference purely from the appearance of the rash. With the potential for slow resolution of an allergic skin reaction, determining what you are sensitized to is crucial to your treatment plan. The test considered the “gold standard” for identifying allergens that may be causing your contact dermatitis is Patch Testing.

Patch testing involves placing small amounts of various common allergens found in everyday products on your back. After several days, the patch is removed and the area is reviewed for any allergic reactions to the allergens. Once you know what is causing your contact dermatitis symptoms, you can treat it by avoiding them. Normally you should see an improvement in your itchy rash within days to weeks of avoiding your allergen.

While this procedure has traditionally involved multiple time-consuming visits to see an Allergy or Dermatology specialist, with Patachbly’s at-home patch testing kits, you can identify what is causing your allergic contact dermatitis reaction from the convenience of your own home. For more information on how patch testing is performed and how Patchably can help, click here (link to patch test article). Once you have identified what your allergic reaction is to, steps can be taken to remove it from your life and get back to having the clear skin you desire.

In addition to patch testing, other steps can be taken to manage your contact dermatitis. Wearing gloves while cleaning or handling irritating substances, taking lukewarm showers instead of hot ones, and using mild fragrance-free and dye-free soaps are all useful in preventing a potential allergic reaction. Additionally, moisturizing your skin regularly with a hypoallergenic cream may help reduce your risk of developing contact dermatitis.

If you suspect that you may have contact dermatitis, it is important to visit your healthcare provider for further evaluation and management. Together you can determine the cause and best treatment plan for your situation. With the proper identification and management of contact dermatitis through Patchably’s at-home patch test kits, you can get back to having clear skin quickly.

 

In Conclusion:

Contact dermatitis can be a challenging and stressful condition, but you too can overcome it. By getting patch tested, you maximize your chance of finding what is causing your skin reactions and taking back control of your health.  

At Patchably, our mission is to provide you with a reliable and convenient solution for diagnosing what is causing your contact dermatitis! Our at-home patch testing kits provide you with access to the same trusted patch test you would receive with your health care provider, without all of the time-consuming and expensive in-person visits. Our team of Board Certified Allergists are standing by to help you now. Don’t suffer from contact dermatitis one minute longer; order your at-home patch kit today!