contact dermatitis

Last reviewed 09/2019

Contact dermatitis is an inflammatory condition of the skin, resulting from exposure to an external agent acting as either an allergen or an irritant (1).

The terms dermatitis and eczema is often used interchangeably.

  • both terms are used to describe a polymorphic pattern of cutaneous inflammation that, in the acute phase, is characterized by erythema and vesiculation and, in the chronic phase, by dryness, lichenification and fissuring
  • however atopic dermatitis (eczema) is an endogenous inflammatory skin condition while external factors are responsible for contact dermatitis (1)

Two forms of contact dermatitis have been recognised:

  • irritant contact dermatitis
  • allergic contact dermatitis (1)


  • in clinical practice, atopic dermatitis and contact dermatitis can often exist simultaneously, especially in hand and foot eczema (1).