Contact allergy - diagnosis and treatment

Radoslaw Spiewak

Institute of Dermatology, Krakow, Poland

Source: Spiewak R. Alergia kontaktowa - diagnostyka i postepowanie. Alergia Astma Immunologia 2007; 12 (3): 109-127.

*CME review commissioned by the Polish Allergology Society

Abstract: The term contact allergy is somewhat problematic. Most textbooks and medical dictionaries (both Polish and foreign-language) do not define this term, or consider it synonymous to allergic contact dermatitis (ACD). However, putting equation mark between these terms is not justified: The term contact allergy denotes hypersensitivity as state of altered immune response, whereas the second term describes symptoms of this hypersensitivity in the target organ (the skin). Contact allergy is present in 40% adults and 20-30% children and adolescents, whereas the lifetime prevalence of ACD is around 10%. The golden standard in the diagnosis of contact allergy is patch test (epicutaneous test). Using patch tests increases probability of accurate diagnosis, more than 20 times shortens time lapse to final diagnosis, reduces cost of treatment, and increases chances for achieving complete remission, thus improves patients' quality of life. In the treatment of ACD, beside allergen avoidance, corticosteroids and phototherapy are well-established therapeutic modalities. At present, tacrolimus is being introduced into ACD treatment.

Key words: contact allergy, allergic contact dermatitis, allergic contact eczema, diagnosis, patch test, treatment.

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Testing for contact allergy in Krakow (Cracow), Poland

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Institute of Dermatology, Krakow, Poland

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Document created: 18 July 2008, last updated: 19 July 2008.