Sherlock Holmes and Contact Dermatitis

Eczema .

Have you ever come in contact with something — maybe it’s a cleaning product, maybe a new cosmetic, maybe a type of metal — and the next thing you know you have a red, inflamed, itchy patch of skin that soon turns scaly?

If you have, you’ve had allergic contact dermatitis (ACD), a skin condition where you develop patches of eczema (clinically known as dermatitis) as a response to a specific substance.

What’s responsible? Your immune system. Your skin has come in contact with a particular substance and your body reacted by calling out the cavalry, sending histamines into the blood to combat the intruder. Although the histamines’ aim is true, in excess they can inadvertently cause swelling and itching of the skin, in this case allergic contact dermatitis.

That’s where Dr. Musick comes to the rescue, playing the role of detective in this crime and finding the culprit behind the allergic reaction. He does this with patch testing.

What is patch testing?

You may have heard of patch testing for a person whose allergies explode every spring when our Illinois surroundings explode with pollen and other plant allergens. Patch testing is a procedure used to identity the external substances that cause a person’s allergies. In cases of contact dermatitis this can be very helpful, as the patient then knows what substances or things to avoid. Patch testing for common allergies (tree pollen, for instance) is not as effective, as avoidance is almost impossible when the plant is blooming.

While some people know they are allergic to something, say shellfish, others have no idea. They buy a new brand of makeup, a new skin cream, and the next thing they know they have a patch of inflamed, itchy skin. Patch testing can tell the person what in the new product is causing their reaction, so they no longer buy or use the product.

What do we test for at Musick Dermatology?

Our patch tests include the most common substances that may be triggering your ACD. Many of these substances may not be recognizable by name, but are found in additives to clothes, leather, ointments, and other common products. We test for these items:

  • Cobalt
  • Epoxy resin
  • Balsam of Peru
  • Ethylenediamine
  • Formaldehyde
  • Neomycin
  • Paraben mix
  • Plants
  • Formaldehyde resin
  • Wool alcohols (lanolin)
  • Quaternium-15
  • Nickel
  • Fragrances
  • Clioquinol
  • Rubber accelerators

If there are other possibilities such as common things you come across at work, they can be added to your patch.

Once your patch results come back, we can tell you the items, ingredients, or chemicals to watch out for on product labels and such.

Do you have ACD at times? Call the Sherlock Holmes of contact dermatitis, Dr. Musick, at (618) 628-2588 and we’ll get to the root of the reaction.

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