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Contact Dermatitis : Definition
Western Medicine Chinese Medicine
Contact dermatitis - allergen caused rash with well-defined border
(Guide to Medical Cures and Treatments)

Allergic contact dermatitis, also known as contact eczema, is an inflammatory skin disease caused by T-cell-mediated hypersensitivity to an environmental allergen . Both sensitization and elicitation of the reaction involve contact of the allergen with the skin. Allergens causing the disease are numerous, are common, and include both natural and synthetic chemicals.



Contact dermatitis - caused by lacquer

Contact dermatitis describes an acute inflammatory condition of the skin or mucosa that results from contact with certain irritant substances or stimulants. The condition occurs in all ages and both sexes, but there is a higher incidence in children than the elderly and women are more commonly affected than men. A characteristic of the disease is a history of exposure to allergenic substances prior to the inflammatory episode. Such substances or stimulants can include medicated plasters, ointment, lacquer, plants, certain materials used in clothing and contact with animals. The distribution of the lesions on the skin corresponds to the points of contact with the irritant and is largely limited to those areas.

The disease has an acute onset. Typical symptoms include itchiness, a burning sensation, and swelling and tenderness of the lesions. Systemic involvement can occur in severe cases. Once irritants are removed and proper treatment given, the condition will usually resolve within one to two weeks. However, further exposure to the causative agent will cause a re-occurrence.

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) contact dermatitis is not recognized as a disease as such, but as a collection of symptoms. From a TCM viewpoint, diseases of the skin are included in the category of surgical trauma and they are described in many ancient surgical classics. As there is no general term in TCM for contact dermatitis, the condition is referred to by names which describe both symptoms and causative agent. Examples of these include:

"lacquer sore"
"plaster rubella" from Chinese herbal poultices
Application of Chinese herbal poultice
"commode ringworm" (inflammation of the buttocks caused by newly lacquered, old-style commode seats)
"pollen sore", and
"tar sore"(tar was formerly commonly used in China to waterproof furniture.)