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Contact Dermatitis and Eczema

Below are some frequently asked questions regarding contact dermatitis and eczema. To find a provider in your area that might specialize in contact dermatitis and eczema, please visit our Find a Provider Directory.


If you have already been to a provider and have had patch testing, please visit the ACDS Contact Allergen Management Program (CAMP) to enter your patient codes and generate your safe list.


Contact Dermatitis FAQ

What is Contact Dermatitis?
What are the types of Contact Dermatitis?
How is Contact Dermatitis diagnosed?
What is Patch Testing?
How is Contact Dermatitis treated?
What is the Contact Allergy Management Program (CAMP)?
What should I do if I suspect that I have Contact Dermatitis?

Eczema FAQ

What is Eczema?
What are the types of Eczema?
How is Eczema treated?


What is Contact Dermatitis?
Contact dermatitis is a rash that occurs when your skin comes into contact with a substance that causes an immune response. This reaction can happen even to substances that you have used safely for years. It may be difficult to diagnose since contact dermatitis may coexist with or look identical to other kinds of eczema.
Once you have developed a contact allergy, it is often difficult to avoid the culprit allergen without knowing exactly what you need to avoid, since many products are made with similar ingredients, and some substances may be found in many different things.

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What are the types of Contact Dermatitis?

  • Irritant contact dermatitis occurs in response to irritating substances such as household cleaners, harsh soaps and industrial solvents. Your skin can react to these substances within minutes or hours.
     
  • Allergic contact dermatitis occurs when a person’s immune system responds to contact with something you are allergic to, such as fragrances, preservatives, nickel, and many others. Allergic reactions typically develop anywhere between a day to a couple of weeks after exposure and may take several weeks to heal.

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How is Contact Dermatitis diagnosed?
Contact dermatitis should be considered in new cases of eczema, when there are changes in chronic cases of eczema such as in location, severity, or appearance, and whenever eczema isn’t responding to treatment. It may be particularly difficult to identify contact dermatitis in people with atopic dermatitis. Your health care provider may diagnose you with irritant or allergic contact dermatitis based on evaluation of your medical history, exposures, and symptoms, and with a procedure called patch testing.

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What is Patch Testing?
Patch testing is a procedure where allergens are placed on your back for 2 days, then removed. After removal, your back is examined for any reactions. Around two days after removing the patches, you will return to the office again for your second reading. At this time, your provider will determine if it is necessary to perform additional readings after your second reading.

Note that patch testing is not the same as prick testing, which is a different allergy test that is used to diagnose other kinds of allergies, such as hay fever, and is not helpful in diagnosing allergic contact dermatitis.

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How is Contact Dermatitis treated?
Treatment of both irritant and allergic contact dermatitis is based on avoiding contact with the substance(s) that caused the reaction. To assist with avoidance of your allergen, various resources exist, such as the American Contact Dermatitis Society’s (ACDS) Contact Allergen Management Program (CAMP). CAMP, which is available to those patients whose provider is an ACDS member, can provide you with a list of safe products to use that is customized to your specific allergies.

Other helpful measures include minimizing your products and protecting your skin barrier using measures such as short lukewarm baths or showers and frequent application of bland fragrance-free moisturizing creams or ointments.

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What is the Contact Allergy Management Program (CAMP)?
The ACDS Contact Allergy Management Program (CAMP) is available to ACDS physician members and their respective patients. This web-based resource is designed to help patients with allergic contact dermatitis find personal care products that are free of the ingredients that are causing their allergic reactions. Each safe list generated is personalized for each individual patient. The list is not exhaustive, but is an excellent starting point for patients to find products that will relieve their allergic reactions.

The products included have been uploaded by CAMP administrators using information that is publicly available or voluntarily provided by personal care product companies who are committed to patient safety.
When patients complete their patch testing to determine which ingredients they are allergic to, the ACDS physician member will give the patient CAMP access corresponding to their specific allergens. These codes can then be entered into CAMP. An app can also be downloaded – free of charge – for easy access to your safe list while shopping.

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What should I do if I suspect that I have Contact Dermatitis?
Please consult a health care provider. For a listing of providers that perform patch testing, you can access the American Contact Dermatitis Society (ACDS) Find a Provider database.

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What is Eczema?
Eczema, also known as dermatitis, is an itchy bumpy rash that can have many causes. Although eczema is a nonspecific term, many people use this term interchangeably with ‘atopic dermatitis’, which is actually only one kind of eczema. All types of eczema may look very similar to one another, and require a medical professional to diagnose them correctly. It is common for one person to have more than one kind of eczema.

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What are the types of Eczema?

  • Atopic dermatitis is a familial disease which can affect infants, children, and adults. It is often accompanied by asthma or allergies.
  • Nummular dermatitis is characterized by coin-shaped lesions mainly located on the extremities, buttocks, and trunk.
  • Asteatotic eczema is a form of eczema caused by dry skin.
  • Dyshidrotic eczema consists of itchy blisters on the hands or feet.
  • Stasis dermatitis occurs at areas where poor circulation cause fluids to accumulate under the skin and is most common on the lower legs.
  • Irritant contact dermatitis is a rash that occurs at the site of skin contact with a substance that results in damage to the skin barrier.
  • Allergic contact dermatitis is triggered by contact with a substance that a person is allergic to. It is diagnosed by skin patch testing. This is a particularly important form of eczema to recognize since it is curable with avoiding substances that one is allergic to. This differs from most other forms of eczema, which tend to be chronic and recurrent.

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How is Eczema treated?
Successful treatment of eczema requires accurate diagnosis of the cause(s) of your eczema so that each can be addressed. Treatment will include measures meant to protect your skin barrier, such as minimizing your skin care products, taking short lukewarm baths or showers, and frequent application of bland fragrance-free moisturizing creams or ointments. In addition, topical, oral, and injectable anti-inflammatory medications, as well as light therapy, may be used.

Any component of irritant and allergic contact dermatitis will need to be treated by avoiding contact with the substance(s) that caused the reaction. Although most forms of eczema tend to be chronic, allergic contact dermatitis is usually curable with avoidance of whatever substance(s) you are allergic to. A procedure called patch testing is often needed to help diagnose allergic contact dermatitis. For a listing of health care providers that perform patch testing, you can access the American Contact Dermatitis Society Find a Provider database.

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