ZocdocAnswersCan the nickel in jewelry cause a rash?

Question

Can the nickel in jewelry cause a rash?

Is it possible for the nickel in a piece of jewelry to causes a rash? I actually had a jeweler tell me when I asked her that the reason I've been irritated by a certain ring I wear is probably nickel allergy, but this seemed wrong to me - nickel is very common in the environment, and I don't react to dirt...

Answer

Allergies are one of the most common reasons that people seek medical advise. The doctors who will be well qualified to discuss this issue with you include your dermatologist or your primary care doctor. Unfortunately, your jeweler is right. Nickel and other metal allergies are very common and they can develop at any time during life. Unlike dirt, which has very low concentrations of nickel, your jewelry has it in a concentrated form. Nickel allergy results from a gradual sensitization of a type of immune cell in the body called a T cell to the metal. The symptoms then include reddening if the skin, scaling, and itching at the point of contact between the skin and the metal. Unfortunately there is no real cure for a metal allergy like a nickel allergy. After the initial symptoms subside (say by applying an over the counter steroid cream) the only definitive treatment will be to avoid the use of the metal for the rest of your life. As always the diagnosis and the management of your particular skin concern will require a physical examination by your personal physician. Setting up an office visit with your dermatologist or your primary care doctor might be advised if symptoms continue.

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