Contact Dermatitis

In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan.


Contact dermatitis is an inflammatory eczematous skin disease. It is caused by chemicals or metal ions that exert toxic effects without inducing a T-cell response (contact irritants) or by small reactive chemicals that modify proteins and induce innate and adaptive immune responses (contact allergens).

Contact dermatitis is divided into irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis. Irritant contact dermatitis is a nonspecific response of the skin to direct chemical damage that releases mediators of inflammation predominantly from epidermal cells while allergic contact dermatitis is a delayed (type 4) hypersensitivity reaction to exogenous contact antigens. Immunological responses are due to the interaction of cytokines and T cells. In photo contact, allergic dermatitis lesions are confined to sun-exposed areas even though the allergen is in contact with covered areas.

Until recently it was believed that allergic contact dermatitis was rare, unfortunately, data indicate that it is very common and affects close to 20% of children.

The good news is that the majority of cases of contact dermatitis are self-limited and managed with simple supportive measures. However, in some patients, the disorder is chronic and can significantly affect the quality of life.

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