Contact Dermatitis (Eczema)
This patient information and photograph on Contact Dermatitis (Eczema) is provided by John L. Meisenheimer, M.D. a board certified Dermatologist and skin care specialist based in Orlando, Florida. This information is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice or treatment of a dermatologist or other physician.
What is it? There are two types of contact dermatitis: irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact
dermatitis. These two conditions can have very similar appearances and are difficult to tell apart even by dermatologists. Dr. Meisenheimer has a special interest in contact dermatitis and is a member of the American Contact Dermatitis Society. He will try to diagnose your problem by using a technique called patch testing.
Irritant contact dermatitis (eczema)
An irritant chemical is one that would cause inflammation in almost anyone if applied in a sufficiently high concentration for a long enough period. An irritant dermatitis is caused by direct damage to the skin by the substance and does not involve the immune system. (example...bleach) See also irritant hand eczema.
Allergic contact dermatitis (eczema)
An allergic reaction is unique to the individual and a substance called an allergen. An allergy is a hypersensitivity to a particular chemical, and always involves the immune system. The eruption will disappear if you avoid contact with the substance (example...poison ivy). Click here for other types of eczema.
Is it dangerous? For the typical healthy person contact dermatitis is a harmless disorder. It is
unrelated to cancer, it does not involve internal organs, and it is not an allergy to foods you have eaten.
Can it be cured? Treatment can improve and clear the rash, but the rash will return if re-exposed to the irritant or allergic material. Often the most difficult part in preventing the rash is figuring out the cause. This will take a great deal of detective work on both our parts.
1. For very mild contact dermatitis relief may be obtained with and anti-itch lotion such as Sarna Anti-Itch Lotion or a mild hydrocortisone lotion such as Aloe Cort Cream or Aquanil HC.
2. Preventing plant contact dermatitis from poison ivy and poison oak can be aided by using ivy Block.
Will it spread? Spread depends on how much of the skin was exposed. The more skin exposed the more rash you are likely to have. Because areas of the body differ in their sensitivity, some areas of skin may be exposed and not break out.
Is it contagious? It is not contagious and you cannot "catch it" from anyone.