The skin is the body’s largest organ. An important task for skin is healing itself if damaged or exposed to irritants. Irritant contact dermatitis is a condition that occurs when a physical or chemical agent damages the surface of the skin (the epidermis) faster than the skin can repair itself.
Irritant contact dermatitis is manifested by the following:
- Surface crusting
It is important to note that this is not the same as an allergic reaction to a compound. Anyone can develop a dermatitis to an irritant if the skin is exposed to the irritant in a high enough concentration or for long enough. Not everyone will develop an allergy to a contactant. With irritant contact dermatitis the affected area is limited to the spot where the trigger or irritant has come into direct contact with the skin.
The severity varies because of a few factors, including:
- The potency and quantity of the irritant
- The length of time or the frequency that the skin is exposed
- The condition of the skin and the resulting susceptibility to the irritant
- Specific environmental conditions that can affect skin
The contact usually occurs two ways: accidental or on a frequent basis. These factors make it easier for a case of irritant contact dermatitis to be diagnosed. Those with accidental contact may have instant pain, swelling, or blistering, ie. a person who suffers from a chemical burn. On the other hand, a baby who is a “dribbler” could be prone to the condition due to the alkaline qualities of saliva.
The most common examples of triggers are:
- Chemical burns
- Diaper or napkin rashes due to the properties of urine and faeces
- Dribbling rashes on the mouth, chin, and neck due to saliva and bacteria
- Exposure to water, detergents, bleach and household cleaners
- Jewellery marks that allow chemicals or water to remain trapped between the skin
- Wearing rubber gloves
- Winter weather or dry air
Treating Irritant Contact Dermatitis
Treatment for the condition begins with identifying the irritant. A dermatologist will provide skin care advice, emollient creams and topical steroids. Antibiotics are sometimes required if a secondary infection is identified.
Eczema can be difficult to effectively control. Dermatologists are highly experienced in managing this condition. If you have any questions or concerns about your eczema, contact our clinic for an appointment. Contact us today.