Dermatitis occurs when the structure of the skin is damaged, or the protective mechanisms are thrown out of balance by external agents such as:
- Irritant Substances
- Working Environment
- Skin Abrasion
Irritants will affect any skin, whether healthy or already damaged in some manner. Medical treatment is effective and if contact is eliminated or reduced, the condition is unlikely to recur. However, repeated exposure to irritants can lead to long term skin damage.
The following are examples of substances which can permanently cause irritant contact dermatitis:
- Acids / Alkalis
- Oxidising / Reducing Agents
- Detergents & Water-Based Chemicals
- Mineral Oils
These do not affect everyone exposed to them. The dermatitis does not appear on first contact with a substance but occurs only after subsequent contact, sometimes over prolonged periods e.g. years. The individuals affected eventually become sensitized (allergic) to that substance.
In addition to substances that the skin may come in to contact with, the work environment can also affect skin condition. Temperature, humidity and wind are all elements which, in more adverse conditions, can affect the skin’s ability to protect itself.
There are many products and substances used in the workplace that can damage the skin simply through their abrasive nature such as sand, plaster or cement which can lead the skin to be scratched or damaged. This leaves the skin more vulnerable to the possible effects of contact with irritants or potential sensitisers.
Dermatitis occurs when the structure of the skin is damaged, or the protective mechanisms are thrown out of balance by external agents.