Nickel is one of the most abundant metals used in daily life. The metal registers its presence in medical instruments, medical devices, belts, buttons, zip, and hooks. Nickel is also used in mobiles and digital tablets. Nickel allergy is a common condition.

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How Common Is Nickel Allergy Or Is It A Rare Disease?

How Common Is Nickel Allergy Or Is It A Rare Disease?

Nickel is one of the most common metals that causes allergy. This is due to its extensive use in daily life. Jewelry, coins, hooks, buttons, and some food contains nickel. While making gold and silver jewelry, a small amount of nickel is also mixed. Since its discovery in 1751, this metal has proved its existence both in simpler things as well as in larger stuff. Its presence is not only in common things but has also spread its wings in medical devices.

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Allergy caused by nickel is delayed hypersensitivity or type IV hypersensitivity1. Unlike rapid hypersensitivity which is caused due to pollens or dust, the delayed hypersensitivity s not instant and the symptoms take some time to appear. In the case of nickel allergy, the patient experiences symptoms 24 hours to 72 hours after getting exposed to nickel.

According to the study that analyses almost 100000 people between the period 2005 to 2014 revealed that almost 15% of adults have nickel sensitivity while the number in adolescent is 12%. Children are least affected with nickel allergy and their number was found to be about 8%. It is to be noted that sensitivity does not always mean that people experience allergic symptoms, rather it is a condition prerequisite for allergic reactions.

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Nickel allergy is more common in women than in men2. This may probably due to the reason that women wear jewelry, have pierced ears and are constantly exposed to utensils which may contain nickel. It has been estimated that almost 36 percent of the women below 18 years in the United States have nickel allergy3. As estimated by the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention, almost 10-20% of the population suffers from nickel allergy.

Doctors are concerned about the use of nickel in hand-held devices as rampant use of such devices may result in an increased incidence of allergic reactions probably due to the use of nickel in such devices. A few years ago, Fitbit, a well-known company for managing physical activity has to recall many of the devices because of the complaints regarding skin reactions. The company later on clarified that use of nickel may be one reason for such allergic reactions. Mobile phones and tabs are also known to cause allergic reactions because of their nickel content.

Diagnosis Of Nickel Allergy

Diagnosis of nickel allergy is not exclusive unless patch test is done. There are various reasons for contact allergic dermatitis. Following are some of the diagnostic techniques use for nickel allergy:

Physical Evaluation: The doctor will get preliminary information by analyzing the site of reaction. Generally, in the case of women, if the allergic reactions occur in neck and ears, these are probably due to nickel jewelry. The doctor may also evaluate the severity of the reaction.

Patients’ History: The doctor may ask various questions regarding the occurrence of allergic reactions. The patient may be asked about his occupation as prolonged exposure to nickel lead to allergic reactions. The family history of the patient is also asked as nickel allergy might also be related to hereditary.

Patch Test2: A Patch test is used to determine hypersensitivity of the patient to nickel. It involves the application of more than one suspected allergen in the form of a patch. The concentration is too small for the people who are not hypersensitive but may cause allergic reactions in people who are sensitive to those allergens.

Conclusion

Nickel is one of the most common causes of contact allergic dermatitis. The condition is severe during prolonged exposure. Approximately 10-20% of the individual suffer from nickel allergy. Women are more affected by nickel allergy as compared to male.

References:  

Sheetal DeCaria MD

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

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Last Modified On: August 17, 2019

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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