What is Nickel Allergy ?
Nickel is used in utensils, buttons and jewelry.Nickel is the metal that often produces more allergy than the other metals. Nickel allergy belongs to the group of diseases called contact dermatitis. It is local inflammation of the skin which usually manifests itself with local redness and itching. The causes are varied, from rubbing and irritating substances to contact with allergens and substances that can cause an allergy in certain people. In the mechanism of allergy, the main protagonist is the immune system which is formed by cells that are able to recognize molecules outside and attack them if they consider it malignant. This is very useful in infections, but it can turn against us when the immune system makes a mistake and attacks the molecules of our own body.
The case of the nickel allergy is relatively common since it is started to use in cookware industry and in daily materials (buttons, jewelry, coins, phones).Of course it will not cause any allergic reaction in everyone. The symptoms of nickel allergy are varied, but are almost local. It is said to be that symptoms of nickel allergy appear at the place where the nickel comes in contact with the skin. Usually begins with redness, swelling and itching locally more or less intense.
An experienced dermatologist can diagnose a nickel allergy only with the clinical interview and the adequate exploration of the patient’s skin.
The mainstay of treatment of nickel allergies is the elimination of nickel from the daily life, avoiding contact with objects made of this metal. This can be a problem in certain professions but must be done in order to avoid the dermatitis. When the dermatitis is already established, you can use corticosteroids in the form of creams or ointments to reduce lesions quickly.
Complications in people with allergies to nickel are rare but can develop a superinfection local lesions of the skin.
Causes Of Nickel Allergy
Nickel is a metal that is widely used and is found in many metal objects. Any person may not be allergic to the nickel and become allergic with the passage of time, although it is more frequent in women by the use of costume jewellery.
When talking about its causes, we must say that nickel allergy develops when millimetric metal particles penetrate through the skin and are detected by immune system cells in susceptible persons. If objects are manufactured with poor quality nickel, it can be greater effect on the skin. There is also more risk of allergy to nickel if the metal comes in contact with areas of skin damaged by wounds or scratches.
Nickel has been a widely used metal in any country of the world because it allows to manufacture metal utensils, silvery appearance with an appropriate cost and appropriate quality. The objects typically have high levels of nickel in their composition are:
- Handles of tools and utensils
- Earrings, necklaces and other items of costume jewellery.
- Wrist watches
- Mobile phones and smartphones
- Buttons and snaps
- White gold
- Industrial chemicals
If we look at this list of products, we understand that many people are in daily contact with the nickel. But in reality few people develop allergy to this metal. However, the risk of developing allergy may be higher in people with constant contact with the nickel as happens in those who wear earrings, piercing or watches made with this material.
Nickel Allergy Symptoms
The nickel allergy produces lesions in the skin known as dermatitis. The dermatitis are inflammations of the local skin with itching as the main symptom with eczema as a clinical manifestation.
Eczema is one of the most common disease in dermatology and consists of an abnormal skin reaction to a stimulus which in the case of nickel comes from outside. The form of eczema varies with time and three stages that can be associated with symptoms of nickel allergy are:
Acute Eczema: It can happen immediately after contact with nickel. Redness,inflammation and even small blisters can be seen on the surface of the skin.
Subacute Eczema: When the eczema evolves, it appears a drier area with less intense redness. Peeling of the thin skin can be seen in this stage.
Chronic Eczema: After several days and even months contact with nickel, eczema acquires a much drier appearance. Furthermore, the continuous scratching of the area produces a reaction of the skin called lichenification which is thickening of the skin.
Diagnosis Of Nickel Allergy
The diagnosis of nickel allergy is basically clinical which is usually sufficient medical consultation with a dermatologist know where to identify typical lesions of contact dermatitis.
Certain locations of eczema can help diagnose contact dermatitis caused by nickel allergy:
Hands: we use them daily and grabbing utensils that may have nickel. You should ask for objects of daily use and maintained in the time (tool handles, sports equipment, etc.).
Wrists: site frequent rubbing of watches bracelets manufactured with nickel, usually occur more in the left hand.
Lobes of ears: earrings are one of the objects that cause a nickel allergy more frequently. When the lobes have eczema at the same time you should consider an allergy to nickel.
To confirm nickel allergy which is uspected you should perform testing of contact in a hospital unit with experience. This is of cause a dermatitis located in another region of the body by applying different substances including nickel.
Keep in mind that any person can be sensitive to nickel. In fact, 19% of the tests are made for another reason to test for nickel allergy that a person is allergic. This is why it is very important to make a clinical diagnosis and tests are only used to confirm this.
Nickel Allergy Treatment
There is no treatment of allergy to nickel. We do not know a way to alter the immune response to anomalous against the nickel. For this reason, the first thing is recommended to someone that suffers this problem is to avoid direct contact in their daily life with this metal.
What we can do is treat the lesions of contact dermatitis when they are produced by the nickel. The treatment of eczema is based on creams and ointments consisting of corticosteroids at different concentrations. These creams have a local anti-inflammatory effect and make eczema disappear after a few days, leaving a slight color change in the affected skin that disappears over time. Topical corticosteroids are safe but should be used for short periods of time to avoid local side effects. If the dermatitis is extensive or is suspected systemic contact dermatitis, can be used oral glucocorticoids in the form of pills. They also have an anti-inflammatory effect which make the skin lesions resolved rapidly.
How To Prevent Nickel Allergy
To do this, the best way is to avoid skin contact with objects that have nickel in their composition. As we have pointed out before there are certain objects that commonly has nickel and can be easily identified (earrings, buttons, watches, etc.).
For those objects that present doubts about whether or not they have nickel in their composition may take the test of dimethylglyoxime which substance in suspicious objects are soaked a swab. if they nickel, swab will turn in pink.
Keep in mind that there are also mixtures of metals, alloys and having nickel mixed with other components may also give allergy. It is the case of white gold where gold and nickel mixed. Therefore, we recommend using gold jewelry as platinum or steel.
While it is true that the mechanisms of allergy are not well known. We can not prevent a person to become allergic to nickel with total security. That is why it is always recommended to use costume jewellery and piercing of high quality and adhere to the regulations of each country. Products from other regions of the world and counterfeits can have levels of nickel is too high.