Home, work or recreational environments can expose individuals to chemicals or other conditions that may cause reactions to the skin. These reactions usually appear as an eczema-like rash. The Occupational Dermatology and Contact Dermatitis Unit specialize in diagnosing and treating allergic and irritant skin reactions.
Contact dermatitis is a common dermatological condition and accounts for a significant number of visits to primary care physicians and dermatologists. It also is a major cause of occupational skin disease.
There are two types of contact dermatitis: irritant and allergic. Irritant reactions are caused by the direct contact of a caustic chemical or detergent to the skin and the subsequent disruption of the skin barrier. Allergic contact dermatitis results from a specific hypersensitivity reaction to a substance or chemical which causes an inflammatory and extremely itchy response of the skin. A typical example of allergic contact dermatitis would be the reaction one sees to poison ivy. There are several thousand potential allergens in the environment, but only a small percentage account for the majority of skin reactions. Typical allergens are preservatives and fragrances in cosmetic products, textile dyes, rubber additives, and topical medicaments.
The Department of Dermatology at Columbia University offers a wide range of services including patch testing for the diagnosis and management of allergic contact dermatitis in children and adults. Patch testing involves placing low concentrations of specific allergens on a patient's back and observing the area for a skin reaction. This is not the same as scratch or prick testing, which is used to diagnose an urticarial (hives) type of allergic reaction. Each patient will receive a detailed evaluation regarding environmental and occupational exposures, and a full selection of common and occupational allergens to be tested on the skin.
For more information on contact dermatitis and patch testing please review our brochure.
If you would like to make an appointment or request more information please call our office at 212.305.5293.