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Ask The Doctor: Women more likely to experience nickel sensitivity

Sep 29, 2014 09:47AM, Published by Community News Service, Categories: Community



Concerned about your health? Experts from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton are ready to answer readers’ questions. Send your questions to askthedoc@rwjuhh.edu.

Q. I recently read that metals, such as nickel, can be responsible for a number of conditions including skin rash and pain. Is it true that patients should undergo testing for nickel allergy prior to undergoing certain procedures, and what can be done to reduce exposure to nickel?

A. Nickel is considered to be the most frequent contact allergen for patients with allergic contact dermatitis. Females are almost four times more likely to develop allergic contact dermatitis to nickel compared to males.

Sensitization to metals such as nickel are thought to occur through exposure to cosmetic products, eyeglass frames, cellphones, iPads, and jewelry (earrings, watchbands, rings, necklace clasps, zippers, and other stainless steel products). Consumption of foods rich in nickel such as shellfish, lettuce, lentils, and spinach can cause these symptoms as well. 

For individuals who are sensitive to 
nickel, contact dermatitis can result from eating food with high nickel content such as chocolate/cocoa. In these patients, a single exposure to foods with high nickel content can result in a flare of contact dermatitis. For such patients, consultation with a nutritionist is recommended to assist in developing a dietary plan containing foods that minimize dietary nickel consumption.

Nickel is also found in joint replacements 
and can results in impaired wound healing, pain and implant loosening in patients who are sensitized. If jewelry makes you itch or causes a rash, ask your primary care provider, dentist, women’s health provider, or surgeon or a referral for patch testing prior to undergoing elective joint replacement, or contraceptive or dental implantation. Patch testing is painless and results are available within one week. 

—Anthony J. Ricketti, MD, FACAI, 
FAAAAI and David W. Unkle, MSN, APN, FCCM are on the medical staff at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton.

This content is intended to encourage a healthy lifestyle. For medical advice and treatment, see a physician.


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