Contact dermatitis is a type of eczematriggered bycontact with a particular substance.

Eczema is the name for a group of conditions that cause skin to become irritated and dry.

With treatment, most people with contact dermatitis can expect their symptoms to improve. Some cases willclear up completely.

This topic covers:


When to seek medical advice




Other types of eczema

Symptoms of contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis causes the skin to become red, blistered, dry and cracked.

This reaction usually occurs within a few hours or days of exposure to an irritant or allergen.

Symptomscan affect any part of the body, but most commonly affect the hands and face.

Read about symptoms of contact dermatitis .

When to seekmedical advice

See your GP if you have persistent, recurrent or severe symptoms of contact dermatitis. They can try to identify the cause and suggest appropriate treatments.

Your GP may refer you toadermatologist (a doctor who specialises in treating skin conditions) for further tests if:

  • the substance causing your contact dermatitis can't be identified
  • your symptoms aren't responding to treatment

Read about diagnosing contact dermatitis .

Causes ofcontact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis can be caused by:

  • an irritant a substance that directly damages the outer layer of skin
  • an allergen a substance that causes the immune system to respond in a way that affects the skin

Contact dermatitis is most commonly caused by irritants such as soaps and detergents, solventsor regular contact with water.

Read about causes of contact dermatitis .

Treating contact dermatitis

If you can successfully avoid the irritants or allergens that trigger your symptoms,your skin will eventually clear up.

However, as this isn't always possible, you may also be advised to use:

  • emollients moisturisers applied to the skin to stop it becoming dry
  • topical corticosteroids steroid ointments and creams applied to the skin to relieve severe symptoms
  • oral corticosteroids steroid tablets that can help relieve widespread symptoms

Read about treating contact dermatitis .

Preventing contact dermatitis

The best way to prevent contact dermatitis is to avoid contact with the allergens or irritants that cause your symptoms.

If you can't avoid contact, you can take steps to reduce the risk of the allergens or irritants causing symptoms, including:

  • clean your skin if you come into contact with an allergen or irritant, rinse the affected skin with warm water and an emollient as soon as possible
  • use gloves to protect your hands but takethem off every now and again, as sweatingcan make any symptoms worse;youmay find it useful towear cotton gloves underneath rubber gloves if the rubber also irritates you
  • change products that irritate your skin check the ingredients on make-up or soap to make sure it doesn't contain any irritants or allergens; in some cases, you may need to contact the manufacturer, or check online toget this information
  • apply emollients frequently and in large amounts these keep your skin hydrated and help protect it from allergens and irritants; you could also use emollient soap substitutes rather than regular baror liquid soaps, as these candry outyour skin

Other types of eczema

Other types of eczema include:

  • atopic eczema (also called atopic dermatitis) the most common type of eczema; itoften runs in families and is linked to other conditions, such as asthma and hay fever
  • discoid eczema circular or oval patches of eczema on the skin
  • varicose eczema this most often affects the lower legs; caused by problems with the flow of blood through the leg veins

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 15 Dec 2016