Contact dermatitis is inflammation of the skin caused by direct skin exposure to a substance. The dermatitis may either be allergic- or irritant-induced.

Overview and Symptoms

In allergic contact dermatitis, an allergen induces an immune response. Irritant contact dermatitis, in which the trigger substance itself damages the skin, accounts for 80 percent of dermatitis cases.

The diagnosis of contact dermatitis is made based on the patient’s history and physical examination. In chronic cases, patch testing is necessary to identify specific allergens.


  • Avoid the suspected trigger.
  • Steroid creams may be prescribed if self-care measures are not effective.
  • Creams or ointments to repair damaged skin and prevent relapse may be prescribed.
  • Oral medications may be prescribed to reduce inflammation, alleviate itching, or treat an infection.