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Metal a Common Cause of Skin Allergy

Most frequent trigger for contact dermititis

MONDAY, March 24, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- You may love those new earrings, but they may not love you if you have a metal allergy.

Metal is the most common trigger for allergic contact dermatitis, which can cause an itchy rash and redness on your skin, according to information presented March 24 at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology in San Francisco.

Allergic contact dermatitis accounts for a significant number of visits to dermatologists. Metal is a common cause of allergic contact dermatitis because of the popularity of body piercing, which can result in irritation and rashes on most any part of the body.

Symptoms of metal allergy usually occur within six to 24 hours after exposure. Affected skin can become red, swollen and blistered. The skin may eventually darken and become leathery and cracked.

The rash is usually limited to the area of contact with the metal. But in severe cases, the rash can extend beyond the contact area, especially if the allergen is on your fingers, which then touch your face, eyelids or genitals.

Symptoms usually disappear when the offending piece of metal is removed.

The most common metal allergen is nickel, which is used in costume jewelry, clothing ornamentation, zippers, buttons, snaps and virtually all common metal objects. About 16 percent of all people are allergic to nickel.

Cobalt and chromate are two other common metal allergens.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about allergic contact rashes.

SOURCE: American Academy of Dermatology, news release, March 24, 2003
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