Your doctor can usually diagnose nickel allergy based on your:
- Skin's appearance
- Recent history of contact with items that may contain nickel
If the cause of your rash isn't apparent, however, your doctor may recommend a patch test (contact hypersensitivity allergy test). He or she may refer you to an allergy specialist (allergist) or a skin specialist (dermatologist) for this test.
During a patch test, very small quantities of potential allergens (including nickel) are applied to your skin and covered with small patches. The patches remain on your skin for two days before the doctor removes them. If you have a nickel allergy, the skin under the nickel patch will be inflamed when the patch is removed or in the days after removal of the patch.
Because of the low concentrations of allergens used, patch tests are safe even for people with severe allergies.
March 13, 2013
- Schram SE, et al. Nickel hypersensitivity: A clinical review and call to action. International Journal of Dermatology. 2010;49:115.
- Usatine RP, et al. The Color Atlas of Family Medicine. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies.; 2009. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=8206371. Accessed Dec. 4, 2012.
- Darlenski R, et al. The many faces of nickel allergy. International Journal of Dermatology. 2012;51:523.
- Tips to remember: Allergic skin conditions. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. http://www.aaaai.org/patients/publicedmat/tips/allergicskinconditions.stm. Accessed Dec. 4, 2012.
- Peiser M, et al. Allergic contact dermatitis: Epidemiology, molecular mechanisms, in vitro methods and regulatory aspects. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences. 2012;69:763.
- Two cents about nickel. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. http://www.aaaai.org/Aaaai/media/MediaLibrary/PDF%20Documents/Libraries/EL-skin-allergies-nickel-patient.pdf. Accessed Dec. 4, 2012.
- Usatine RP, et al. Diagnosis and management of contact dermatitis. American Family Physician. 2010;82:249.
- Tattoos and body piercings. American Academy of Dermatology. http://www.aad.org/media/background/factsheets/fact_tattoos.html. Accessed Dec. 6, 2012.
- Tammaro A, et al. Topical and systemic therapies for nickel allergy. Dermatitis. 2011;22:251.
- Habif TP. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 5th ed. Edinburgh, U.K.; New York, N.Y.: Mosby Elsevier; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?about=true&eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-7234-3541-9..X0001-6--TOP&isbn=978-0-7234-3541-9&uniqId=230100505-57. Accessed Dec. 6, 2012.