Up to 25% of Americans have an allergy to nickel resulting in rashes, itching, pain, swelling and flaky skin. But often people do not associate their symptoms with nickel because they find the rash in odd places, without recognizing the nickel because it is hidden as part of an alloy. An alloy is a metal combination such as stainless steel which can have nickel, carbon, iron, and other metals. Often these allergies are first identified when women wear jewelry, which may also explain why women are more susceptible to nickel allergies, also called contact dermatitis. But the allergy may manifest as a rash near the belly button from belt buckles, a rash on the legs from metal studs in pants, or even swelling, redness and patches across the feet from buckles on shoes. Identifying contact dermatitis from metals is important because should a person need surgery to fix a fracture, they may need screws and plates, most of which are made from stainless steel. 60% of failed plates and screws were placed in patients with metal allergies.
What can you do to prevent complications from metal allergies?
- Pay attention to your body; if jewelry or other metal exposure causes swelling, redness, itching, pain or other discomfort, do not wear it and share that information with your primary physician
- If you are unable to wear stainless steel or handle money without breaking out, you can use other metals such as titanium, silver or gold and protect your hands with gloves when touching coins
- If you avoid contact with the offending metal but still have dermatitis, you can get patch testing to determine the true cause of the allergy
- If dermal rashes develop after placement of screws and plates, the doctor can prescribe steroids and remove the plate and screws
As long as the metal is avoided, the symptoms usually remain local to the contact point of the allergenic source but if you also notice chest pain, difficulty breathing and nausea and vomiting, you may be suffering from a systemic allergy to metal. Immediately call 911 and get help as soon as possible.
Contact dermatitis can be dangerous if not properly managed. If you talk to your doctor, you may be able to avoid placement of high nickel hardware to stabilize a fracture. Instead your doctor may recommend hardware made from other types of metals such as titanium alloys, preventing a second surgery to remove the hardware.
Please visit our website for more information or call 614-885-3338 (FEET) to schedule an appointment with us at our Columbus, Gahanna or Dublin, OH office.