Mechanisms of Irritant Contact Dermatitis

  • Steen Lisby
  • Ole Baadsgaard


Irritant contact dermatitis is an eczematous reaction in the skin of external origin. In contrast to allergic contact dermatitis, no eliciting allergens can be identified. The spectrum of irritant reactions is broad and includes: subjective irritant response, acute irritant contact dermatitis, chronic irritant contact dermatitis, and chemical burns (Table 4.1). Irritant contact dermatitis is in its acute form characterised by erythema, infiltration, and vesiculation. In its more chronic form, dryness, fissuring, and hyperkeratosis are more pronounced. Despite these hallmarks, the clinical manifestation of the skin lesions developing, following contact with different irritants, varies. Factors that may influence the outcome of skin contact with irritants can be divided into: (1) exogenous, such as structural and chemical properties of the irritant, exposure to other irritants, and environmental conditions (temperature, humidity); and (2) endogenous, such as the body region that is exposed (the scrotum is much more sensitive than, e.g. the upper back), age [1], race [2], and pre-existing skin disease. Moreover, in addition to the capacity of different irritants to induce clinically different reactions, it has been reported that marked interindividual variation in threshold for eliciting clinical irritant reaction in skin is present [3].


Major Histocompatibility Complex Class Contact Dermatitis Sodium Lauryl Sulphate Allergic Contact Dermatitis Skin Barrier 
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  • Steen Lisby
  • Ole Baadsgaard

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