Contact dermatitis is inflammation of the outer layers of the skin caused by contact with a particular substance. It usually presents as a rash that is typically confined to the specific area of the body where the contact occurred.
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Contact dermatitis is usually caused by either an irritant or an allergen. An irritant is a substance that irritates the skin. An allergen is a substance that causes an allergic reaction. People may be exposed to certain substances for years and never have a problem, and then suddenly develop contact dermatitis.
Some common causes of contact dermatitis include:
- Metals, such as nickel (common in jewelry allergy)
- Cosmetics and toiletries
- Plants, such as poison ivy
Last reviewedOctober 2012by Peter Lucas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.