Thursday, October 06, 2011
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For nearly eight million Americans dealing with contact dermatitis, a typically itchy and red inflammation of the skin, choosing skin care products that don't cause irritation can be a frustrating trial-and-error exercise. Even the most promising of moisturizers, sunscreens or shampoos, often labeled as "natural" or "hypoallergenic," can trigger a painful bout of redness, skin lesions or swelling. In serious cases, the condition interferes with the patient's daily routines — and sleep. Now dermatologists, their patients and consumers who are concerned about sensitive or allergy-prone skin problems can use CARD (Contact Allergen Replacement Database) to manage their skin sensitivities.
Available as a mobile phone or web-based application, CARD offers user-friendly tools, including a "shopping list" of products and ingredients to help patients avoid potential allergens — by brand, product category or name. The system, designed by Mayo Clinic in Arizona in collaboration with mobile health systems developer Preventice Inc., tracks more than 8,000 known ingredients found in some 5,500 commercial topical skin care products.
Patients have options for using CARD to help manage skin allergies. Free mobile access to CARD lets patients with a skin rash or reaction look for skin care products that are presumably safe to use and are free of the most common chemicals that cause allergic reactions. This gives patients products they can begin using right away, or until they need to see their dermatologist. If necessary, a dermatologist can perform skin allergy patch testing and, upon completion, the patient will receive a personal allergy list. The list is used in the subscription-based version of the app in the "My Allergens" function; there is a nominal monthly fee.
When personal allergy information is entered, CARD will quickly find products that are safe for patients to use, via a "My Shopping List" screen. Both versions of CARD have a "push" feature that keeps the thousands of products in the CARD app up to date. For instance, if a patient's favorite moisturizer adds a new ingredient that may be a potential cause of allergy, CARD notifies the patient that the product may no longer be safe and can even suggest an alternative.
"Our goal in making CARD available to patients and providers is to help prevent the need for an unnecessary doctor visit," said James Yiannias,M.D., chair of Dermatology at Mayo Clinic in Arizona and developer of the allergen database. "By giving patients the ability to track their symptoms, and through providing an up-to-date personal list of safe skin care products, we will improve their quality of life and decrease the need for clinic visits."
The first version of CARD was rolled out and put into clinical use at Mayo Clinic in the fall 1998. Previously available only to Mayo Clinic physicians and American Contact Dermatitis Society (ACDS) members, CARD is recognized as a tool that physicians and their patients can use in partnership. Once patch-testing for contact skin allergies is completed, forming the initial data entered into the system, CARD users can take advantage of the many features offered within the app.
The genesis of CARD has a personal angle. Dr. Yiannias was determined to help his father, who suffered from contact dermatitis and continual itching for most of his life. Fresh from his residency in dermatology, Dr. Yiannias was gently "scolded" by his father, who suggested he use his training to develop "a computer program to help patients like us, because we need help!"
Mayo Clinic and Dr. James Yiannias have a financial interest in the technology referenced in this article and will receive royalties from the sale of this product.
Journalists can become a member of the Mayo Clinic News Network for the latest health, science and research news and access to video, audio, text and graphic elements that can be downloaded or embedded.
Learn more about becoming a patient at Mayo Clinic in the Patient & Visitor Guide.