Irritant Contact Eczema

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Irritant Contact Eczema is the result of irritating substances which cause stinging and burning sensations with some itching. If such irritants are strong and caustic, such as acids or alkalis, they can produce burns or ulcers upon first contact with the skin. Weaker irritants such as soaps and detergents will make the skin dry, scaly, red and fissured. Chapped red hands are an example of this.

Almost everything we do involves our hands. Identifying and avoidance of the irritant is the first and foremost step in treating irritant contact eczema. Common hand irritations (which may vary from mild to severe) will respond to emollients and in severe cases, one's doctor may prescribe limited time doses of steroid ointments. An oral antibiotic may have to be taken if the skin becomes infected. Some of the more common irritants are alkali soaps, detergents, shampoos, bubble bath preparations, antiperspirants, depilatories, rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol, permanent wave liquids, household cleaners (such as lye, oven cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, polishes, bleaches, ammonia), and fruit and vegetable juices.

Irritant contact eczema occurs more often than allergic contact eczema. Irritant Contact Eczema is the second most reported cause of occupational-related health issues - the number one cause of occupational-related health issues is muscle and joint pains and injuries.

Irritant contact eczema can occur in any occupation in which skin, more commonly the hands repeatedly make contact with chemicals, substances or are washed often. These occupations include but are not limited to cleaning and janitorial staff, hairdressers, medical staff, fish handlers, caterers, and food processors all of which require frequent hand washing or contact with water. Frequent contact with water causes the surface cells of the epidermis layer of skin to swell thus disrupting the usually tight cohesion between the cell structures, exposing the more sensitive deeper layers to contact with irritants.

Some methods of treating irritant contact eczema include:

It is often not possible to avoid contact with the offending irritant. Therefore the goal of treatment is to minimize symptoms as much as possible. This can be difficult as some irritants can cause skin reaction following very limited exposure or contact.

Use of gloves can reduce the amount of direct contact. It is best to use cotton-lined gloves or a thin glove under the rubber or latex gloves. This is due to the fact that many people with repeated contact develop an allergy to rubber and latex.

Particularly in wet-work jobs, it is essential to keep the hands well moisturized. Barrier creams applied to the hands will provide some protection but it is often necessary to compliment this treatment with a steroid-based anti- inflammatory cream.

Applying Eczema-Ltd III patented topical skin conditioner disks to the affected areas twice a day can be beneficial.

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