Irritant contact dermatitis is a prevalent skin problem that is often chronic. Its symptoms and severity vary widely from case to case, but is usually associated with inflammation, itchiness, redness, rashes or swelling developing on the affected area, usually the hands. If you have these problems chronically and don’t know what’s causing it, it may be irritant contact dermatitis.
What is irritant contact dermatitis?
Irritant contact dermatitis occurs when the skin has been exposed continuously or repeatedly to an irritant. These reactions are generally slow and often develop over time due to low but chronic exposure. Red rashes are the most common symptoms that develop. The rashes are often painful, and sometimes itchy. In some cases, blisters can form. The hands are the most common area to be affected, as it comes into contact with more things than any other body part.
What kinds of substances are common irritants that cause this?
Unfortunately, many substances can be responsible for irritant contact dermatitis, and many of them are included in everyday items that we touch at home or in the workplace. Constant exposure to water is a very common source of skin irritation as is exposure to detergents, making occupations such as nursing or hairdressing a challenge to those that are susceptible. Other common causes of irritants include solvents, disinfectants, acids, and alkali found in factory work, and in cleansers.
What are some challenges in treating contact dermatitis?
The first challenge is in identifying the cause of the rash. Symptoms like rashes are common and generic and may be caused by a number of things. The second challenge is that the irritants are often found in the household, or at work, where complete avoidance may not be feasible or practical. Irritant contact dermatitis is often considered to be an occupational condition; it is far more common in certain occupations as their jobs require them or make it far more likely to be exposed to certain irritants.
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How do I treat irritant contact dermatitis?
The first step is to visit your doctor or your dermatologist if you have one that you can see. Many of the symptoms that you see, such as rashes, dry skin, blisters, or crusting skin are common to other dermatological conditions. They can provide you with a proper diagnosis.
Reduce exposure: Once you’ve identified that irritant contact dermatitis is the likely culprit, try to remove the source of irritation as much as you can. It is difficult to treat this condition successfully if you are continually exposed to the irritant. Some suggestions include using milder cleansers and detergents, wearing gloves (if feasible) when working with chemicals, and hand washing.
Skincare: If the irritant is known, wash your hands with soap and water immediately after exposure to remove the offending substance from your hands as quickly as possible. Avoid scratching the affected area, as this will only alleviate itching temporarily, and worsen your skin condition. It can also lead to further itching and possibly infection. Cold compresses or ice wrapped in a towel can help calm down itching, and antihistamines can also help relieve itching.
Lifestyle changes: Changes need to be made to reduce the level of exposure to the irritant to make long-term improvements. Treatments like applying lotions or corticosteroids can help bring the symptoms under control, but the problem will recur if exposure is not reduced. Hand-washing, and avoiding or minimizing exposure is the key to manage this problem.