Nickel allergy is one of the commonest allergic contact dermatitis seen. It occurs when a sensitized person has contact with nickel however, this allergic dermatitis would not occur on the 1st contact or after few contacts, it needs to prolong exposure to develop allergic dermatitis. It is found that 9.9% of the population is sensitized for nickel which means they are at increased risk of developing nickel allergy.
Who Is At Risk For Nickel Allergy?
Several risk factors increase your chance of getting nickel allergy. Some of these can be changed but some cannot be changed.
Young Age: Nickel allergy is commonly seen in younger age people.
Female Gender: Nickel allergy is commonly seen in females. This can be because nickel is present in most of the jewelry and piercings therefore, females become more sensitized than men. A recent study has found out that overweight females are also at increased risk of developing nickel allergy.
Family History Of Nickel Allergy: If you have a family history of nickel allergy then you are at an increased of developing it too. It might be an inherited gene that can pass down from one generation to another.
Having Ear And Body Piercing: Similarly, having an ear or body piercings increased the exposure to nickel and men and women who have a lot of ear and body piercings are at increased risk. Women who wear jewelry all the time are at increased risk of developing nickel allergy too.
Smoking: Research studies have found out an association between smokers and nickel allergy. However, it’s not still clear if smoking is an independent risk factor or is it because most smokers have more piercings in them or both the factors increase the risk.
Working With Metal: If you’re continuously exposed to nickel when you’re working yours at increased risk of developing nickel allergy. People who work in the metal industry, tailors, hairdressers are at increased risk. Additional people who do wet work such as who have frequent contact with water or who sweat a lot are at increased risk. Bartenders, domestic cleaners and people work in certain food companies are a few examples of wet workers.
Being Allergic To Other Metals: If you have allergies to other metals you might get nickel allergy too.
Sources Of Nickel Exposure
- Jewelry for body piercings
- Other jewelry such as rings, necklaces, and bracelets
- Clothing fasteners, such as zippers, bra hooks, and snaps
- Belt buckles
- Eyeglass frames
- Metal tools
- Laptops or computer tablets
- Medical devices (1) (2) (3)
Is There A Blood Test To Diagnose Nickel Allergy?
No, there is not any blood test to diagnose nickel allergy. The diagnosis made on the clinical picture: an itchy rash in places exposed to nickel and the history of nickel in the past suggestive of nickel allergy. In any doubt, a patch test is done. What is done in the patch test is small amounts of nickel are placed on to your skin and closed with a patch. After about two days the patch is removed and checked if the skin under the patch is inflamed. If it is inflamed it means you have nickel allergy. This test is quite safe as your only exposed to small amounts of nickel. (4)
Nickel allergy is one the commonest allergic contact dermatitis and there are several risk factors for nickel allergy such as younger age, female gender, family history of nickel allergy, people who have more ear and body piercings, smoking, working with metal and people who have other metal allergies. There aren’t any blood tests to confirm nickel allergy, it’s a clinical diagnosis but in any doubt, a patch test can be done. Patch test includes placing small amounts of nickel on the skin and covering it with a patch and after two days checking if the skin area is inflamed which indicates nickel allergy.
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