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Contact eczema is often referred to as dermatitis. It is an acute (short- term flare-up) or chronic (long-term) skin reaction where there is sensitivity to materials or substances that come in contact with your skin. It may involve allergic or non-allergic reactions.
Irritant contact dermatitis is a skin reaction caused by the direct effect of an irritant substance on the skin. Contact dermatitis typically causes inflammation on areas of skin which have come into contact with the substance. No prior exposure to the substance is necessary. An irritant dermatitis is most likely to occur on the hands. If you have atopic eczema (the most common type of eczema, which is linked with hay fever and asthma) you may be more prone to irritant dermatitis. These irritants are commonly found in various occupations e.g. cleaning, hairdressing, horticulture and building work.
Allergic contact dermatitis is a skin reaction that occurs when your immune system reacts against a specific substance (allergen). Your immune system becomes sensitised to the allergen over time. Previous exposure to the substance is needed to produce an allergy. Therefore, you can suddenly react to a substance you may have come in to contact with many times before. A small amount of the allergen can then cause a skin reaction. Once your skin has become sensitised it can persist for life and there is no cure. Common substances include: nickel (jewellery, bra straps, belt buckles etc.), perfumes, rubber, some plants, some ingredients in cosmetics, skin medications, hairdressing chemicals etc.
A weekly nurse led clinic is held at the Centre to provide advice on treatment and management of eczema to patients, their families and carers and other health professionals.