Diagnosis and treatment of contact dermatitis in Franklin TN
There it is again – the same rash, in the same place. It is unsightly, itchy, and uncomfortable. What’s causing it? The answer could be contact dermatitis, a common skin reaction to allergens and irritants. Don’t worry, accurate diagnostics and effective treatment is available right here at CoolSprings Laser, Aesthetic & Skin Care Center in Franklin, TN.
An allergy is essentially a glitch in the immune system. It causes your body to recognize a benign substance as harmful. The trigger itself may not be harmful, but the barrage of chemicals and physiological processes unleashed by your immune system can be.
What triggers allergies, and what are the symptoms? The potential answers to those questions are endless. Depending on the type of allergy, it might manifest as anything from difficulty breathing to a skin rash. As for triggers, it is possible to be allergic to virtually anything imaginable.
Allergic contact dermatitis is a reaction triggered when your physically touch an allergen. The best solution is usually avoidance of triggers but identifying them can be challenging. For example, imagine you develop a rash every time you wear a certain bracelet. In this scenario, a nickel allergy is most likely. However, jewelry is usually made of alloys containing several metals. It would take patch testing or considerable “trial and error” to determine exactly what you are allergic to.
Some of the most common allergens include:
- Nickle, and alloys that contain it
- Poison ivy, oak, or sumac
- Latex, such as that used in disposable gloves
- Oranges and other citrus fruits, specifically the peels
- Cosmetic products such as hair dye or perfumes
Irritant contact dermatitis
As discussed above, an allergy is an unnatural immune reaction to a harmless substance. Harsh chemicals, abrasive textures, and other harmful skin contact can also cause a rash or other skin damage. However, it is not considered allergic dermatitis. This type of skin reaction is known as irritant contact dermatitis.
Common types of irritant dermatitis include:
- Acid burns
- Chapped hands from too much water
- Dry skin caused by cleaners or other chemicals
- Diaper rash
- Skin irritation from abrasive fabrics or clothing styles that cause friction
Signs to watch for
The symptoms of contact dermatitis may begin instantly. However, it more commonly develops several hours to days after exposure to an allergen, or with repeated exposure to an irritant. The signs will vary, depending on what type of contact dermatitis you have.
Symptoms of allergic dermatitis include:
- Blisters, filled with fluid and sometimes oozing
- Flaking or crusty lesions
- Itching, stinging, or burning sensations, often quite intense
- Red, inflamed rash that feels warm to the touch
- Excessive dryness
Symptoms of irritant dermatitis include:
- Blisters, which may erupt leaving behind crusted sores
- Bright red, swollen skin
- Chapped, dry skin that is overly sensitive to any potential irritant
- Cracking or scaling
Diagnosing contact dermatitis
There are hundreds of causes and types of skin rashes, making self-diagnosis unreliable. The only way to determine if you have contact dermatitis is an evaluation by a medical professional. A comprehensive skin examination can usually determine if you have contact dermatitis.
However, identifying the precise triggers is much more challenging.
Discussion is an important part of the diagnostic process. In addition to symptoms and medical history, we may also inquire about topics such as your work environment, hobbies, pets, and daily routines. It is important to give these questions careful thought and answer accurately. Allergic dermatitis in particular can be tricky. You might develop an allergy suddenly to something you have worn or handled for many years. Don’t assume something is irrelevant just because it hasn’t been a problem before.
For patients diagnosed with allergic contact dermatitis, patch testing may be needed to determine the specific allergens. The process involves controlled exposure to suspected allergens, followed by analysis of the skin’s reaction.
In most cases, multiple substances will be tested at once. Each is applied to a tiny disc or pad, which is adhered to skin using hypoallergenic medical tape. The patches are usually applied to the back, where they are easily hidden beneath clothing. After a period of time, usually 48 hours, the patches are removed. We will evaluate the skin at that time, and again in a follow-up appointment a few days later. This process tells us what you are allergic to, and how severe the allergy is.
Contact dermatitis treatment
Effectively controlling contact dermatitis requires a two-pronged approach. First is prevention, which is accomplished by avoiding triggers. Once we have diagnosed your allergies or sensitivities, we will help you learn to identify and avoid these things in your environment. You might need to become an avid label reader, particularly if you are allergic to something that is a common ingredient in cosmetics.
The other important aspect of treatment is soothing the symptoms and healing any skin damage when you are exposed. Depending on your condition, we may provide in-office treatments, prescription medication, or simply advice for home-care.
Treatment options include:
- Topical medication – For mild itching, an over the counter hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion can provide temporary relief. If these products are not sufficient, we may prescribe steroid cream or other medicated ointment.
- Soaking – In some cases, a cool compress or bath can be helpful and soothing to itchy skin. However, if the problem is chapping related to water exposure, this is not recommended.
- Skincare– We may recommend increased moisturizer, more diligent sun protection, changing to gentler products, or other adjustments to your typical skincare regimen.
- Oral medication – A nonprescription antihistamine may help control itching, or we may prescribe a stronger anti-itch medication, if needed.
In severe cases, contact dermatitis can cause significant skin damage, such as acid burns or large blisters. We may prescribe topical or oral antibiotics if needed to clear up infection and hasten healing. If you are left with scars, hyperpigmentation, or other marks, you may choose to have a skin rejuvenation treatment such as laser resurfacing or chemical peeling as the final phase of treatment.
From diagnosis to treatment to erasing the scars, you can count on the expertise of the medical professionals at CoolSprings Laser, Aesthetic & Skin Care Center. Just call our office at (615) 656-4030 and schedule an appointment to get started.
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