Contact Dermatitis

By Spader, Catherine RN

What is contact dermatitis?

Contact dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin caused by direct contact with an irritant or allergen. This common skin condition is marked by itching, inflammation, redness and blistering, sometimes resembling a burn. Contact dermatitis itself is not dangerous, and it is not contagious.

Contact dermatitis is one of many forms of dermatitis including eczema, infantile eczema, and seborrheic dermatitis.

Irritant dermatitis is the most common type of contact dermatitis and occurs when skin comes in direct contact with an irritating substance, such as soaps, detergents, and other chemicals. This skin reaction looks more like a burn. Allergic contact dermatitis is caused by coming in direct contact with substances to which you are allergic, such as poison ivy, some medications, fragrances, dyes, and preservatives.

The appearance, severity and triggers of contact dermatitis vary between individuals. With accurate diagnosis of the underlying allergy or sensitivity, contact dermatitis is treatable and curable by avoiding exposure to the substance that triggers the rash and using topical medications and other therapies.

Contact dermatitis is generally not a serious condition, but there is a potential for complications, such as a secondary bacterial or fungal infection of the rash. Seek prompt medical care if you have symptoms of contact dermatitis. Early diagnosis and treatment can help reduce the risk for complications of contact dermatitis.


What are the symptoms of contact dermatitis?

Symptoms of contact dermatitis differ in severity, frequency and duration among individuals. Symptoms may develop quickly after contact with the allergen or substance that triggers contact dermatitis, or it may take days to weeks for symptoms to appear.

Hallmark symptoms of contact dermatitis include:


What causes contact dermatitis?

Contact dermatitis, also called allergic contact dermatitis and irritant contact dermatitis, is often associated with allergies and is caused by direct contact of the skin with a substance to which an individual is allergic or sensitive. These substances are called allergens and irritants. Allergens and irritants that c... Read more about contact dermatitiscauses


How is contact dermatitis treated?

In many cases, contact dermatitis can be cured. With a well-integrated, individualized treatment plan, outbreaks of contact dermatitis can be avoided, and symptoms can be effectively controlled or eliminated. A good treatment plan is individualized to your medical history, the severity of your contact dermatitis, the specific cause, and other factors. 

Goals of treatment in... Read more about contact dermatitistreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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