Diagnosing contact dermatitis
To put it in the simplest terms, contact dermatitis is an inflammatory reaction of the skin when it is exposed to either an irritant or an allergen. A common misconception is that the irritant or allergen must be a chemical or substance that is highly reactive. However, cases of contact dermatitis are usually linked to substances that are harmless to the vast majority of people, even water. “Eczema” and “dermatitis” are often used synonymously. Contact dermatitis is commonly recognized on the skin as a rash of tiny blisters that are sometimes moist and oozing, or it can appear as dry, inflamed, reddened skin.
It is important that you consult with a dermatologist if you suspect that you might have contact dermatitis. The first step toward treatment is understanding whether an allergen or an irritant is affecting you. The following are some of the most common substances:
- Bath soaps
- Eye shadow and mascara
- Hair styling chemicals
Allergic contact dermatitis
Allergic contact dermatitis occurs when you have a reaction to something that comes in contact with your skin. In most cases, signs and symptoms will rarely appear on contact. It can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days for your skin to react. Sometimes with initial exposure, weeks may pass before you notice anything. When signs and symptoms do appear, you may notice the following:
- Intense itching of the skin
- Red and swollen skin rash
- Excessively dry skin
- Burning or stinging of the affected areas
- Fluid-filled blisters
Continued exposure to an allergen can cause an unsightly breakdown of the affected skin, leaving it to crack and flake, and eventually thicken and darken with a leathery appearance.
Irritant contact dermatitis
There is a countless number of substances that can irritate our skin. Your dermatologist can determine if you have been exposed to a mild irritant or a strong irritant. An example of a mild irritant would be the fragrance in soap or perfume. A strong irritant would be chemicals such as battery acid or fiberglass fibers. Consider the following signs and symptoms for mild irritants:
- Chapped, dry skin
- Patches of itchy, red, swollen, and scaly skin
- Stinging and burning when the irritant touches the affected skin
- Dry skin that eventually becomes cracked and scaly
- Sores and blisters that erupt into crusts and scales
Observe the following symptoms with skin affected by strong irritants:
- Burning, stinging, or itching upon contact with the irritant
- Red, inflamed areas on the skin
- Development of fluid-filled blisters
Once affected by irritant contact dermatitis, many things can irritate your skin. With continued exposure, the conditions worsen. It is important that you consult with a dermatologist at the first signs of any skin irritation.
Treatment for contact dermatitis in Charlotte, NC
If you have a problem with itching or irritated skin, consider a consultation with Dermatology Specialists of Charlotte. Dr. Nixon and Dr. Haught are board certified dermatologists whose dedication, experience, and knowledge will provide the best possible treatment for your skin, hair, and cosmetic concerns.
Dermatology Specialists of Charlotte also offers medical, cosmetic, and surgical dermatology; including removal of skin cancer. In addition to chemical peels, they provide a full range of cosmetic offerings such as skin tightening, fat reduction, Botox treatments, microdermabrasion, and more. They are equipped for treatment of both adult and pediatric patients. Call their office today for a complementary consultation to determine your specific needs.