Demystifying contact dermatitis in Plano, TX
One minute you are fine, and the next you have an itchy red rash. Then it goes away, only to return when you least expect it. What is going on? There are actually many possibilities, but one of the most likely is a condition called contact dermatitis. The good news is that contact dermatitis is avoidable, because it only happens when you touch a triggering object or substance. The bad news is that discovering and avoiding the trigger can be especially difficult. Don’t worry, the team of DSA Dermatology in Plano, TX is here to help!
What is contact dermatitis?
Contact dermatitis is an itchy skin condition, usually accompanied by a red rash and possibly blisters. There may be tenderness, inflammation, and a burning sensation. With repeated exposure, the area might become dry and scaly, possibly resulting in cracked skin. Although not contagious or life threatening, it can be miserable and lead to long-term skin damage.
Irritant contact dermatitis
This type of rash forms when your skin is exposed to harsh chemicals, abrasive textures, or other irritants. Generally, things that trigger irritant dermatitis are harmful to skin. Depending on the irritant, mild exposure might not cause a reaction, but prolonged or repeated contact will. Additionally, people with damaged or unhealthy skin are more susceptible.
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For example, you might clean the floor with a harsh household cleaner every week without problems. However, that same cleaner might cause a rash if you forget to wash your hands after use, or if you handle the concentrated version of the product, or if you spend an entire weekend using it to wash down walls.
Allergic contact dermatitis
Like other allergies, this condition is essentially a dysfunction of the immune system. When you have an allergy, your body reacts to a benign substance as if it were harmful. That means the trigger is not necessarily an irritant. What causes a severe reaction in one person might be completely safe for someone else.
Identifying allergens can be tricky because the problem is often a specific ingredient. Cosmetics and personal care products tend to contain a lot of fragrances, preservatives, and other chemicals that are common allergens. Even some therapeutic ingredients can trigger allergies in certain people. Many people are also allergic to nickel, which may be found in jewelry, or buckles and other metal parts on clothing.
Tips for finding your triggers
- Watch for patterns – Does the rash appear in afternoons, on laundry day, or in the springtime? Any pattern can help you pinpoint potential allergens and irritants in your environment. Be aware that there may be some lag time. Sometimes the reaction occurs within minutes, making it easier to identify triggers. However, it can take hours before you notice a rash.
- Check your clothing – If the rash is always in the same area, you could be wearing the trigger. Latex gloves, metal snaps, wool fabrics, and residue from laundry products are a few of the most likely culprits.
- Change up skincare products – Even if you’ve been using something for a while, it could be the problem. Skin changes, people lose tolerance to irritants and develop new allergies. Try switching to a gentle, hypoallergenic product and see if the condition improves.
- Keep a log – Recurrent, seemingly random rashes can be challenging. Make note of when and where they appear, as well as any potential triggers you’ve contacted. Identify changes – If the rashes started recently, think about anything new you’ve contacted. Did you recently try a new laundry soap, or add insect repellent to your spring skin care routine?
- Get professional help – Sometimes self-diagnosis is easy. If you have a chemical burn where you touched oven cleaner, or a buckle-shaped rash under your watch band, then the cause is obvious. However, if it takes some detective work, we can help. During your consultation, we will discuss your habits, work environment, skincare products, and other potential sources of exposure. If the trigger is not evident, we may conduct diagnostics such as patch testing.
Stopping contact dermatitis before it starts
The ideal solution is complete avoidance of all triggers. Unfortunately, that isn’t always possible or feasible. It depends entirely on the type of contact dermatitis, and what exactly is causing it. We will work with you to develop a customized, effective strategy. For example, maybe you are allergic to a plant in your own garden, or you must use a harsh solvent at work. In this case, long sleeves, gloves, and other protective garments can prevent natural irritants or chemicals from contacting your skin. Additionally, if you are allergic to certain common ingredients, you might need to become an avid label reader.
From treating the rash to identifying the triggers and creating an avoidance plan, you can count on the professionals at DSA Dermatology. Give us a call at +1 972-362-9567 to schedule.