Background: Allergic contact dermatitis is a significant cause of cutaneous disease affecting many individuals in the home and at the workplace. Patch testing is the most worthwhile diagnostic tool for the evaluation of patients with suspected allergic contact dermatitis.
Objective: This study reports the results of patch testing from January 1, 2001, to December 31, 2002, by the North American Contact Dermatitis Group (NACDG).
Methods: Patients were tested with an extended screening series of 65 allergens. A standardized patch-testing technique was used. Data from these patients were recorded on a standardized computer entry form and analyzed.
Results: Sixty-five allergens were tested on 4,913 patients. The top 10 allergens remain the same in this study period as in the 1999-2000 study period: nickel sulfate (16.7%), neomycin (11.6%), Myroxilon pereirae (balsam of Peru) (11.6%), fragrance mix (10.4%), thimerosal (10.2%), sodium gold thiosulfate (10.2%), quaternium-15 (9.3%), formaldehyde (8.4%), bacitracin (7.9%), and cobalt chloride (7.4%). Of the 4,913 patients tested, 69% had at least one positive allergic patch-test reaction. Of all patients, 15.8% had occupation-related dermatitis; 15.4% were determined to have irritant contact dermatitis, and 11.1% of the 15.4% had a relevant reaction to an occupational irritant. Of all patients tested, 16.7% had a relevant reaction to an allergen not in the NACDG standard series, and 5.5% had a relevant reaction to an occupational allergen not in the standard series.
Conclusion: Our findings once again reinforce the need for a more comprehensive group of diagnostic allergens than those found in the standard screening kits. The usefulness of patch testing is enhanced when a greater number of allergens are tested, especially nonstandard allergens occupationally encountered.