Contact dermatitis is inflammation of the skin that occurs when you come into contact with a particular substance.
Contact dermatitis is a type of eczema that can cause red, itchy and scaly skin, and sometimes burning and stinging. It leads to your skin becoming blistered, dry and cracked.
It can affect any part of the body but most commonly affects the hands.
Read more about the symptoms of contact dermatitis.
Contact dermatitis can be caused by:
- an irritant (a substance that damages the skin physically), or
- an allergen (a substance that causes the immune system to respond in a way that affects the skin)
Contact dermatitis caused by irritants is more common, causing up to 8 out of 10 cases.
Read more about the causes of contact dermatitis.
Treating contact dermatitis
If you can successfully avoid the irritants or allergens that cause your contact dermatitis then your condition will clear up.
However, this isn't always possible so treatment involves using emollients to soothe the skin. An emollient is a moisturiser that reduces the loss of water from the skin. Corticosteroid medicines can be used to treat severe symptoms.
With treatment, most people with contact dermatitis can expect their symptoms to improve and in up to two out of five people contact dermatitis will clear up completely. However, some people may experience complications of contact dermatitis such as an infection or severe symptoms which affect their quality of life.
Read more about how contact dermatitis is treated and preventing contact dermatitis.
Who is affected?
Contact dermatitis is more common in women, with approximately 1 in 5 women experiencing it on their hands at some point during their lives. This may be because women are exposed to more of the irritants that can cause contact dermatitis.
Contact dermatitis can develop at any age and can affect anybody.