Clinical Reviews in Allergy & Immunology

, Volume 56, Issue 1, pp 60–71 | Cite as

Occupational and Hand Dermatitis: a Practical Approach

  • Heather P. LampelEmail author
  • Helen B. Powell


Occupational skin disease is common. It affects workers more often than reported. Contact dermatitis, both irritant and allergic, accounts for the majority of occupational skin diagnoses. Occupational contact dermatitis (OCD) frequently affects the hands and may have a profound impact on an employee’s ability to perform a job. Severe OCD can affect a worker’s activities of daily living and can even lead to job loss. Numerous irritants have been described in the workplace, from the common (wet work) to the more obscure (warm, dry air). Several contact allergens may be work-related, and the majority of established occupational allergens are also known nonoccupational allergens. Emerging occupational allergens are continually described in the literature. Patch testing is the gold standard for the workup of allergic contact dermatitis. Patch testing in the setting of OCD may require extended or unique allergen trays, as well as a thorough occupational history and collection of workplace Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). These MSDS contain valuable information but may not be complete or accurate. Proof of occupational causation can be aided by employing the Mathias criteria. Certain industries and occupations are associated with higher rates of OCD, and as expected, the industries with direct contact with irritants and allergens are highly represented. The differential diagnosis for occupational dermatitis is broad and should be considered when evaluating an employee with suspected OCD. Some other diagnoses to consider include atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, and manifestations of internal disease, as well as an overlap syndrome of more than one diagnosis. OCD treatment should ideally follow the public health hazard controls’ stepwise approach. Prevention and early intervention are key to promoting occupational health and preventing OCD. Multidisciplinary teams have been successful in the treatment of OCD, and newly described topical treatments may provide additional modalities for use in the occupational setting.


Occupational Contact dermatitis Hand Allergen Irritant 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sona DermatologyRaleighUSA
  2. 2.University of North Carolina School of MedicineChapel HillUSA

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