Contact dermatitis is a condition where the skin becomes sore, red, itchy, or swollen after contact with an irritant or allergen. These reactions are not life-threatening or contagious, but they may be uncomfortable or embarrassing. Contact dermatitis is very common. However, it is also very difficult to diagnose because reactions are usually delayed, making it harder to determine their cause.

Symptoms of Contact Dermatitis

Symptoms of contact dermatitis will usually occur on the areas of your skin that were directly exposed to the offending substance – under your watchband or where you touched the poison ivy, for example.
It is important to note that reactions can occur immediately, after several hours or days, or only after years of exposure. Also, different types of contact dermatitis and different contact allergens and irritants will cause different types of symptoms.
Some possible symptoms:

  • Itching, sometimes severe
  • Tenderness, burning, or pain
  • Rash that may be warm, tender, oozing, crusty, scaly, raw, thickened, red, streaky, patchy, bumpy, and/or itchy
  • Red, dry, rough skin
  • Blisters that may weep or crust over
  • Skin rash on only the area that was exposed to the irritant or allergen
  • Redness that resembles a burn

Types of Dermatitis

Irritant contact dermatitis is the result of damage to your epidermis (the skin’s protective outer layer) by a chemical or substance. The severity of the reaction is determined by how long you were exposed and how strong or concentrated the substance is. Irritant contact dermatitis is the most common type of contact dermatitis. This is not an allergy – it is just an irritant.
Allergic contact dermatitis is when an allergen causes an immune reaction on your skin. You can be sensitized to a stronger allergen (like poison oak or poison ivy) after only one exposure. A weaker allergen may require several exposures over months or years before it will trigger an allergy. Unfortunately, once you have developed an allergy to a particular substance, you will probably be allergic to it for the rest of your life. Patch Allergy testing can be done at West Houston Dermatology.