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Contact dermatitis: Overview
Almost everyone gets this type of eczema at least once. We get contact dermatitis when something that our skin touches causes a rash. Some rashes happen immediately. Most take time to appear.
Allergic contact dermatitis
Some people have an allergic skin reaction. You have had this type of contact dermatitis if you had a rash caused by:
- Poison ivy
- Makeup you applied once or few times
- Jewelry you wore for a long time without a reaction, such as a wedding ring
- Jewelry you wore for only a few hours or days
- Latex gloves
Irritant contact dermatitis
This type is more common. It develops when something irritates the skin. With enough contact, most things will irritate our skin. A person diagnosed with any of the following has irritant contact dermatitis:
- Diaper rash
- Acid burn
- Dry, cracked hands due to lots of contact with water
- Irritated skin around the mouth due to lip licking
When a toxic substance touches our skin, the skin is quickly irritated. You’ve had irritant contact dermatitis if your skin reacted to a toxic substance like:
- Battery acid
- Pepper spray
You can also develop irritant contact dermatitis when you have lots of contact with less irritating substances like:
People often develop irritant contact dermatitis at work. Beauticians, nurses, bartenders, and others who spend lots of time with wet hands get this. It often starts with dry, cracked hands. In time, the skin on their hands may begin to sting and burn. The skin becomes very tender. Sometimes, the skin itches and bleeds.
When a rash does not clear within a few weeks, you should see a dermatologist.When contact dermatitis develops, treatment is important. It can prevent the contact dermatitis from worsening and help your skin heal.
Image used with permission of Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology: 2002; 47:755-76.
American Academy of Dermatology. "Contact dermatitis." Medical Student Core Curriculum. Last update July 2011.
The Lewin Group (prepared for the Society for Investigative Dermatology and the American Academy of Dermatology Association). "The Burden of Skin Diseases." 2005. p. 37-40.