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vicariousbliss 06-02-2011 12:08 PM

Contact dermatitis? Eczema? I need help !
Hey, I have a couple of questions about my "mystery skin condition" and I'm hoping that I'll get some answers here (: I'm going to try and make it as short as possible....

This all started about a year and a half ago, when I noticed that the inner corner of my eyes had some hyperpigmentation, and it was a bit itchy. I mentioned it to my mom, but brushed it off as being nothing. (I'm black & have dark skin, just fyi) Anyway, it wasn't really noticeable. But by January of last year, I had developed these huge dark circles around my eyes. They were puffy and inflamed. When this initially started, I thought they were just dark circles, so I tried all sorts of creams, serums, etc that claimed to help get rid of them. Of course, that didn't work, and it just seemed to be getting worse.

From last January until now, I've seen doctors about this problem and have not been able to get a clear answer. I've been told it's everything from eczema, to a bruise, to allergic shiners. But these have all been [I]speculations[/I], no one seems to know what the hell it is.

When this first began, It didn't resemble a rash. But now, it definitely does. To help you picture it, this it what is looks like:[LIST][*] swollen[*] wrinkly[*] very dry and sometimes flaky[*] hyperpigmentation going around the whole eye[*] these very, very tiny bumps that seem to be right underneath the skin[/LIST]In a nutshell, it just looks INFLAMED.

A dermatologist who I've seen recently alluded to the possibility of contact dermatitis. He didn't actually say it, but he did ask me if I used hair dye and nail polish. (which I do)

As of now, I'm 95% sure that that's what it is: contact dermatitis. I seriously don't know what else it could be, because it just doesn't look or act like plain old eczema. :/ I have friends with eczema, and theirs looks TOTALLY different. Well, I've done[I] a lot[/I] of research on allergic contact dermatitis the past few days, and I have begun using only natural things on my face and body, and I've stopped wearing all makeup and nail polish. The only things I use that aren't 100% natural are my shampoo, conditioner, and body soap. However, these things contain very mild, gentle ingredients and have no fragrance, parabens, preservatives, detergents, etc.

Now the thing is, I have the same dry, scaly skin on my hands and my legs. Like my eyelids, the skin on my hands do not itch. My legs do itch, but only when I break out in hives. For whatever reason, I keep getting hives on my legs, and only my legs. This just makes me even more certain that I have some sort of skin allergy. (I also have other allergy symptoms such as post-nasal drip, rhinitis, etc)

I'm sorry this post was so long :round:, but I just wanted to make sure to include as many details as possible (: Now, my questions are:
1) Based on the above description, do you think my eyelid "rash" is contact dermatitis or atopic eczema?
2) Dry skin on hands/legs: Contact dermatitis or atopic eczema?
3) Does eczema have to itch in order to be eczema?
4) Any other advice you'd like to give me??

By the way, I'm 17 years old.
Also, I have an appointment with my dermatologist on June 15, and an allergist on June 16, but I'm curious to hear input from other people. :)

tim307 06-03-2011 02:01 PM

Re: Contact dermatitis? Eczema? I need help !
Hey [b]vicariousbliss[/b]! I do believe you have atopic eczema and not contact dermatitis on your eyelids, hands, and legs mainly because of the following reasons:

1. First of all, atopic eczema rashes are characterized by flat, dry, and flaky rashes which you seem to have. They may look slightly raised but this is only because your skin is irritated by them. Contact dermatitis rashes, on the other hand are supposed to cause raised rashes to appear. These rashes come in the form of bumps, blisters, wheals, or hives.

< edited >

2. If you have contact dermatitis, the affected area is supposed to be extremely itchy or burning. Since your rashes don't itch at all, it is possible that you do have atopic eczema. Why? Because atopic eczema rashes are less itchy with age. In fact, only infants and children with atopic eczema [i]have[/i] itchy rashes. Teenagers and adults who have atopic eczema don't develop rashes that are as itchy as those in infants and children.

vicariousbliss 06-03-2011 10:30 PM

Re: Contact dermatitis? Eczema? I need help !
Thanks for the reply. (: But if it really is atopic eczema, don't you find it strange that I went through my whole childhood never displaying any symptoms, and all of a sudden it just starts acting up? :/ I don't know, it just seems peculiar to me. Also, I do get hives, almost every day. Like this evening for instance, I was so itchy EVERYWHERE. It was really weird. I also had hives and little bumps all over my legs. I had to take a Benadryl because it was just so bad. I don't know what causes it. But yeah, the eyelid thing doesn't itch.

I think that after I get all this testing done & if it turns out I don't have any allergies, my family doctor and dermatologist will probably go ahead and treat it as atopic eczema. However, I strongly think allergies are a big part of what's going on. I guess I just have to wait and see....

by the way, I was also prescribed hydro cortisone cream last year by a different dermatologist, and it didn't help at all. Not to mention, I don't like the idea of putting steroid cream around my eyes. Do you know what other options of treatment there are for skin inflammation? Maybe something a bit more natural? thanks!

tim307 06-04-2011 06:14 AM

Re: Contact dermatitis? Eczema? I need help !
Hi [b]vicariousbliss[/b] :) Just because you didn't have atopic eczema in your childhood, doesn't mean you don't have it in your genes. It just so happened that it started late with you. Oh so you're having hives. It's possible you have contact dermatitis then and not atopic eczema on your legs :| It's really best you have yourself diagnosed by a dermatologist.

I understand why you're wary about using steroid creams around your eyes. And it's not advisable too. Maybe you can try Emu oil? It has anti-inflammatory properties and it's great for the skin too. I have a friend who uses it as a regular skin moisturizer and her skin looks amazing! But I think it will take a few weeks of use before you'll see any improvement on your eyelid rash though.

Good luck!

vicariousbliss 06-04-2011 09:04 AM

Re: Contact dermatitis? Eczema? I need help !
Hmmm I'm going to try to get my hands on this Emu oil! I've been using almond oil on my face and it helps a lot with the dryness, not so much with the inflammation around my eyes. And to anyone who may be reading this and is suffering from some sort of eyelid dermatitis, I will definitely come back after my 2 appointments with an update. From what I've seen on the internet, there are a lot of people who have the same problem, and don't know what it is or what caused it. So if my experience can help out some people as well, that'd be great. (: I know first-hand how frustrating this eye rash thing can be and I plan on getting some answers this month, one way or another.

And thanks for the help, Tim :D Really appreciate it.

MrsLee 06-12-2011 12:51 PM

Re: Contact dermatitis? Eczema? I need help !
Hi there. It sounds like you are desperate for a diagnosis, and I understand that sentiment. I was about 17 when I started getting skin rashes (I'm 29 now). I've see many dermatologists who did not take me seriously, and I've been diagnosed with everything from "dermatitis" to psoriasis. It turns out I probably have atopic dermatitis (also known as eczema). I also have lots of allergies which probably make it worse.

So as for your contact dermatitis or atopic dermatitis question - I understand wanting to know, but aren't you more worried about getting it treated/learning how to avoid a reaction? In my experience there seems to be some overlap of the two conditions, and it's certainly possible to have both. I have atopic dermatitis, but I also broke out in nummular eczema recently from the chemicals in a hot tub. Slowly I am learning what I need to avoid to keep from breaking out. So it's possible that being in contact with certain substances can cause atopic dermatitis.

As for itching, part of my problem in getting help for my skin problems has been that I do not have the traditional eczema symptom of itching. My eczema rashes tend to hurt, actually. Only recently have I gotten itchy rashes. So I guess my point is, skin conditions are not always exactly by the book. You can absolutely have eczema without itching. It also may not look exactly like it is supposed to.

Other advice: it's important to find a dermatologist who is willing to work with you long term, because there is not usually an easy solution to this kind of thing. In my experience, some dermatologists just are not interested in eczema/dermatitis (my current dermatologist even TOLD me this!). They like the more exotic stuff, I guess. Plus treating chronic eczema tends to not be very satisfying for some doctors. Most often it entails trial and error with no quick fixes. You need a patient and persistent dermatologist.

It's likely your dermatologist will want to do patch allergy testing, which is different from the allergy testing the allergist will most likely do. Some dermatologists are better than others when it comes to patch testing. How patch testing works is they tape patches to your back, which contain small amounts of common allergens, and they have to stay there for 2 days. Then you go back and they remove them and check for allergic reactions. Then in another day or two, you go back again to check for delayed reactions (this is important, but some dermatologists do not do the second check - not sure why). This testing can reveal chemicals that could be causing your skin problems. In my own case, I found out I have ten substances I am allergic to, including several that are in almost all products out there.

So anyway, I hope you get a diagnosis, but don't be surprised if you do not. The important thing is finding a dermatologist who will work with you to find a way to get this under control. Be patient and hang in there. I wish you the best!

vicariousbliss 06-12-2011 06:29 PM

Re: Contact dermatitis? Eczema? I need help !
Thank you so much for the detailed reply. The reason why I'm so anxious to figure out whether it's eczema or contact dermatitis is because at least for the latter, I have some chance of avoidance. :/ I'm really hoping that I have some positive patch test reactions. Really, [I]really [/I]hoping, lol. My family doctor is also very skeptical that I have atopic eczema, and he's pushing for me to get this patch testing done because he knows how much this eyelid thing is stressing me out. He also says that if I have a dust allergy (which he suspects I do), that could also possibly be causing my skin issues. I know I probably sound a bit stubborn.. :round: but I hope that between my dermatologist and allergist, I'll figure this out.

For whatever reason, my dermatologist doesn't do the patch testing, but the allergist does. I'm really only going to my dermatologist so that he can hopefully shed some light on my symptoms and I guess give me some "reassurance" about the whole thing. And I totally know what you mean about finding a patient dermatologist. My last dermatologist was HORRIBLE. Rude, impatient, and didn't help me at all, not with my acne OR my eyelid inflammation. But I've started to see a new derm, & even though I've only seen him once before, he was very patient, gave me time to talk, and made sure to answer all my questions. I think that he'll be willing to help me with my problems. (: A year ago, I was definitely looking for a quick fix, a cream, a gel, [I]anything [/I]that would get rid of this eye thing. Now, all I want is an answer as to what caused it.

I'm trying my best to be patient, but (here comes a bit of a sob story) this rash has really killed my self-esteem. :/ And every time I see a doctor, I get my hopes up, only to leave discouraged and even more confused than before. My senior prom is next Thursday, & while my other friends are talking about getting their makeup and nails done, how they're going to do their hair... I've been avoiding makeup like the plague, haven't done my nails in forever, and I'm totally stressed out about my appearance. It just really sucks, to look in the mirror and feel horrible about what you see. And it's because of this rash. So yes, I am very desperate for a diagnosis. I'm sick and tired of feeling bad about myself and I think it's about time I take matters into my own hands.

Anyway, I didn't mean to get all emotional, haha. Thanks again for replying :D

vicariousbliss 06-18-2011 02:15 PM

Re: Contact dermatitis? Eczema? I need help !
Well, I'm back, with a diagnosis. (:
My dermatologist says that my eyelid problem is 100% a rash, and confirmed that it's contact eczema, from something I'm allergic to. He says that a very common cause of it (in women) is from painting your nails and then rubbing your eyes, as well as shampoo and conditioner running down your face and over your eyes, things you wash your face with, and of course, makeup. Anyhoo, he prescribed me 1% cortisone ointment (he says you should never use cortisone cream around your eyes, only the ointment), as well as Reactine. He says I should continue to avoid products and only use water until it clears up. He also says that the scaly skin on my hands and legs is probably all being caused by the same allergy.
Anyway, I'm glad that finally it's been diagnosed as a rash, because for the longest time, people have been saying they were "allergic shiners" .... yeah, right. He also sent in a referral to a hospital for me to get the skin patch testing done, because it turns out no allergist actually DOES the testing. I need to get it done at a hospital. :/ So, that may be months and months down the line. But I don't mind, the wait will be worth it.

Anyway, I went to see an allergist, and got the other testing done. I found out I'm allergic to the following things:
Tree mix
Weed mix
and HAMPSTER. That was funny for me, because I've had 3 hampsters :round: I don't have any currently though.

Neither my dermatologist, allergist, or family doctor believe that I have atopic eczema.

Anyway, I'll update with my progress with this damn rash, hopefully by the end of the summer it goes away. :D

auntdew 06-30-2011 02:18 AM

Re: Contact dermatitis? Eczema? I need help !
I'm not surprised you have allergies, when I read your first post it reminded me of problems I have had with skin allergies. I also have eczema.

vicariousbliss 06-30-2011 02:37 AM

Re: Contact dermatitis? Eczema? I need help !
[QUOTE=auntdew;4789522]I'm not surprised you have allergies, when I read your first post it reminded me of problems I have had with skin allergies. I also have eczema.[/QUOTE]

Hello, just out of curiousity, what things are you allergic to ? Did you ever get the patch test done ?

auntdew 06-30-2011 02:53 AM

Re: Contact dermatitis? Eczema? I need help !
[QUOTE=vicariousbliss;4789527]Hello, just out of curiousity, what things are you allergic to ? Did you ever get the patch test done ?[/QUOTE]

I haven't had patch test done, but I am pretty sure I am allergic to safflower and sunflower oil (on the skin) as I had a bad reaction after I started using a vitamin E product made from those two oils (which are closely related), puffy eyes, blotchy, itchy skin. It was the first time I had itchy skin on my face.
My eczema is only on my body, arms and legs.

I now I must have other allergies as well as I have had other minor allergic reactions in the past, but it can be very difficult identifying the causes to reactions. I suppose one day I should get a patch done, but it is not a priority atm.

EDIT: I almost forgot, I am also allergic to cats. :(

vicariousbliss 06-30-2011 03:08 AM

Re: Contact dermatitis? Eczema? I need help !
Ohhh I see. (: Well I haven't had the test done yet (My appointment is on November 21 :round:), but I'm about 98% sure that the allergy causing me trouble is nickel.

I found out that there is actually nickel in my face powder and eye makeup (iron oxides), that would possibly explain the eye rash and the skin inflammation every time I wash off my makeup. Then there's the fact that my ears are always swollen, itch, crust, ooze and bleed. I have 8 piercings, so you can imagine how inflamed they were. I recently switched to nickel-free, lead-free sterling silver earrings. No more inflammation. As for the scaly skin and hives on my legs, I noticed that the skin was only dry and scaly on the places where I shaved, but not my inner thighs, ankles, etc. Plus, I found it very strange that the hives [I]only [/I] appeared on my legs. Switched to titanium razor blades, no more hives. & I'm hoping the scaly skin goes away too.

Anyway, I won't know for sure until I get tested, but I'm pretty damn sure that's what the problem is.

vicariousbliss 11-27-2011 04:04 AM

Re: Contact dermatitis? Eczema? I need help !
Well, I'm back. :wave: Like I said, my patch test appointment was on November 21 and after a week of itching, discomfort, and a SEVERE allergic reaction (to the point where my whole body from head to toe was covered in hives, no exaggeration), it's now been confirmed that YES, I am allergic to nickel. I reacted to the 2.5% strength nickel, the 5% strength nickel and cobalt, to be exact. I mean, I had already assumed that was what the issue was, but it's nice to be 100% sure and to rule out any other possible skin allergies. The dermatologist tested me for 81 DIFFERENT SUBSTANCES. I was shocked, wasn't expected that many allergens. But anyway, my mystery has been solved and I hope that this helps anyone else with these symptoms!
Just to clarify, I do NOT have atopic eczema, I have [B]allergic contact dermatitis[/B]. The doctor also said he would be emailing me a database of nickel-free eye makeup. (: I also got an eyeliner and mascara from the brand 100 Percent Pure and they are iron oxide free. ;)
Moral of the story: Demand to get a patch test done!!! Haha. Seriously, it's so worth it.

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