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Recognizing, Diagnosing, and Treating Irritant Contact Dermatitis

Symptoms of Irritant Contact Dermatitis

Signs and symptoms of irritant contact dermatitis usually occur in the area where the irritating substance came in contact with the skin. Cases that are due to a mild irritant may cause the affected skin to become red, dry, and cracked. Exposure to a strong irritant may result in immediate pain, blistering, and swelling.
(Click Contact Dermatitis Symptoms for more information.)

Diagnosing Irritant Contact Dermatitis

In order to diagnose irritant contact dermatitis, the healthcare provider will ask a number of questions about when the symptoms started, what you do for a living, and what your hobbies are. He or she will also look at the rash.
Based on the answers to the questions, as well as the way the rash looks, your healthcare provider may have a general idea of what is causing your symptoms. If he or she thinks this is irritant contact dermatitis, specific treatments will be recommended.
(Click Diagnosing Contact Dermatitis to learn more.)

Treatment Options

The recommended treatment for irritant contact dermatitis in your particular situation will then depend on several factors, including:
  • The cause of your symptoms
  • The severity of your symptoms
  • Your age and overall health.
Treatments for irritant contact dermatitis can include:
  • Complete avoidance: Figuring out what is causing the condition and then avoiding it will go a long way toward helping current symptoms, as well as preventing a recurrence in the future.
  • Medications: Depending on the severity of symptoms, treatment with medications may be recommended, such as steroids to help with the redness, itching, and swelling; antihistamines to help with itching; and antibiotics if the area has become infected.
  • Emollients: Emollient creams or ointments (known as lubricants) -- such as Cetaphil®, Eucerin®, and Aquaphor® -- help to restore the skin's moisture, increase the rate of healing, and establish a barrier against further drying and irritation.
(Click Treatment for Contact Dermatitis to learn more about treating this condition. Click Contact Dermatitis Prevention to learn more about preventing it.)

Contact Dermatitis Information

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