The Symptoms of Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis isn't a contagious disease. Nor is it usually a serious health problem. In most cases, the discomfort disappears in a short period of time.
The Symptoms of Contact Dermatitis

Written by Maite Córdova Vena, 04 September, 2021

Last update: 04 September, 2021

The most prominent symptoms of contact dermatitis are redness and itching in the affected area. These aren’t usually serious and tend to go away on their own within about three weeks. However, there are cases in which they can appear with greater intensity and be more persistent.

Contact dermatitis is an inflammatory reaction that can be irritating or allergic, depending on the substance that causes it. This can be a plant (such as poison ivy or nettle), the protein in a given food (of plant or animal origin), a medicine (such as an antibiotic), or a scented cosmetic product.

Common symptoms of contact dermatitis

According to the MSD Manual, the main symptom of contact dermatitis is itching. This is accompanied by redness and inflammation of the area, as well as a rash and dryness. Lesions on the hands often appear as well.

Depending on the cause, the person may experience certain symptoms or others. Also, these can vary considerably in intensity. Therefore, itching isn’t among the worst discomforts in every case.

The same person can experience different symptoms throughout their life. Therefore, it’s not always possible to predict how contact dermatitis will affect someone in the case of new successive exposures.

Irritant contact dermatitis doesn’t usually cause as severe itching as allergic contact dermatitis (ACD). Pain’s usually more predominant in ICD, and the rest of the signs range from mild redness (erythema) to bleeding, lumps, blisters (with or without discharge and scabs), and even fluid retention (edema).

Itching from contact dermatitis.
Itching or itching is the main sign of the condition. It is usually located in a specific area.

Rare symptoms

In rare cases, contact dermatitis may cause the following symptoms:

  • Urticaria: Reddish hives.
  • Lichenification: Thicker skin.
  • Systemic contact dermatitis: The expansion of symptoms to areas far from the initial outbreak. In general, contact dermatitis is usually limited to the affected area. However, it can sometimes spread.

Complications of contact dermatitis

It’s not often that contact dermatitis becomes a major problem. However, sometimes it does. Some of the most prominent complications could be infection (because the skin has become so dry that it breaks and is vulnerable to pathogens) and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (a darkening or lightening of the skin).

If the symptoms of contact dermatitis prevent you from carrying out your usual activities and even sleeping at night, and are also accompanied by fever, purulent blisters, and other symptoms, you should consult your doctor. Although the symptoms of contact dermatitis usually go away on their own after about 3 weeks, there are cases in which this doesn’t occur and a consultation is necessary.

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