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Author: Susan Ford BSc (Hons) Occupational Health, Practice Nurse, New Zealand, 2011. DermNet NZ Update April 2021
Occupational skin disease is among the most common occupational diseases reported. For a skin disease to be considered occupational in origin, there must be a causal relationship between the occupation or work and the skin disease.
There are three broad groups of occupational skin disease:
More than 90% of cases are classified as one or other form of contact dermatitis.
The following occupations account for 80% of reported occupational skin disease in developed countries in Europe; most involve wet working conditions, which commonly results in contact dermatitis.
Other occupations reviewed on DermNetNZ include:
The sites affected by occupational skin disease depend on exposure. About 80% of patients with occupational skin disease present with hand dermatitis.
Younger workers have a slightly higher risk that older workers, but who are affected will depend on:
Irritant contact dermatitis occurs when contact with chemical or physical agents injure the skin’s surface faster than it is able to repair the damage. Occupational irritant contact dermatitis:
Clinical features of irritant contact dermatitis are varied.
Allergic contact dermatitis is an immunological response (allergy) to a contact allergen. Only people who are allergic to a specific agent (the allergen) will show symptoms. The appearance can be exactly the same as irritant contact dermatitis. Allergic contact dermatitis:
There are some specific features of allergic contact dermatitis:
Skin conditions other than dermatitis may occur as a result of occupational exposures. These comprise <10% of occupational skin disease.
Occupational skin disease may follow exposure to chemical, biological or physical agents.
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