Contact Dermatitis Complications

Written by the Healthline Editorial Team | Published on July 14, 2014
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on July 14, 2014

Complications of Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis (CD) is usually a localized rash that clears up in two to three weeks. However, sometimes it can be persistent or severe. Occasionally, it can become widespread. Rarely, it will lead to other complications.

Common Complications of Contact Dermatitis

When the itching and irritation of contact dermatitis are severe and persistent, the following complications may arise:


Skin that is moist from oozing or open from irritation or scratching is susceptible to infection from bacteria and fungi. The most common types of infection are staphylococcus and streptococcus. These can lead to a condition called impetigo. This is a highly contagious skin infection. Most infections can be treated with antibiotics or antifungal medication.


Scratching can make your skin even itchier. This can lead to chronic scratching and scaling. As a result, the skin may become thick, discolored, and leathery.


Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the skin. It is most often caused by streptococcus or staphylococcus bacteria. The symptoms of cellulitis include fever, redness, and pain in the affected area. Other symptoms include red streaks in the skin, chills, and aches. If you have a weakened immune system, cellulitis can be life threatening. Be sure to call you doctor if you have any of these symptoms.

Diminished Quality of Life

If contact dermatitis symptoms are severe or long lasting, they can affect your quality of life. They may make it difficult for you to do your job. You may feel embarrassed about the appearance of your skin. If this is the case, you should talk to your doctor about how to manage your symptoms more effectively.

Outlook for Complications of Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis symptoms usually go away in two to three weeks. If you continue to contact the allergen or irritant, your symptoms will most likely return. As long as you avoid contact with the allergen or irritant, you will probably have no symptoms. There may be more than one allergen or irritant that causes your rash. If you have photoallergic CD, sun exposure may cause flares for many years. Staying out of the sun can avoid this.

If you have severe or persistent symptoms, the condition may become chronic. Early treatment of symptoms to stop the itching and scratching will help to avoid this. Antibiotics can usually treat infections. Even cellulitis usually goes away with seven to 10 days of antibiotic use.

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