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36 Sanford Street
Fairfield, CT
203-254-0179

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Trumbull, CT
203-459-8712

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Hand eczema, which is also known as dermatitis, can be a vexing problem for both patients and physicians. Eczema on the hands is an itchy rash that appears red with deep blisters, scaling, cracking and sometimes bleeding. Hands have daily contact with irritants such as soaps and hand sanitizers, as well as many allergens. About five per cent of the population is allergic to the common metal allergens nickel and cobalt, but it is sometimes unclear if exposure is occurring. New research suggests that one of the hazards of laptops and other electronic devices may be exposure to these metals. Nickel is used widely throughout the electronics and metals industries and appears in unexpected places. Nickel contributes about 60 billion dollars to the US economy and is used for plating metal objects to prevent corrosion. It is also used in the manufacturing of CDs, DVDs, hard drives and laptop screens as well as other laptop parts. An article published this month in the journal Contact Dermatitis has now identified a risk of exposure to nickel and cobalt from laptop computers. The authors tested wrist supports and lids of 31 computers from five different brands for the presence of nickel and the closely related metal cobalt. Nickel was found in 39% and cobalt in 6% of the samples tested. When a saline solution similar to sweat was applied, clinically significant amounts of nickel and cobalt leached from the devices. With constant wear, additional amounts of the metals were detected. Although the amount of exposure is low, repeated exposure may approach the threshold for an allergic response. Other devices that have been reported to contain metal allergens include the controller for Xbox, the iPad and some cell phones. The exact location of the rash on the hands may give further clues to its origin. Test kits are available commercially to test these products for the presence of nickel. A different type of non-allergic f eczema may potentially occur on the hands of lap top users known as erythema ab igne. This unusual type of inflammation is caused by repeated low level exposure to heat, which occurs with prolonged use. The rash has a net-like appearance along with increased pigmentation and essentially is a burn from chronic exposure to a warm object. If you suffer from chronic hand dermatitis, evaluation includes a patch test for sensitivity to contact allergens. This test is entirely painless and is performed by applying paper patches to the back that contain a variety of chemical substances. The patches remain on the skin for forty eight hours. After removal, the skin is examined for an eczema reaction to the individual components. Relief of eczema is starts with identifying the irritant and allergic triggers.