Nickel is a complex, silver-white metal found typically in nature. It is malleable and cost-effective, making it easy to work with. It is usually blended with different metals to make different things. For instance, beautifying products and contact lens solutions may also contain metals that can trigger an allergic response at the point of contact. Additionally, small amounts of nickel are present in numerous foods, including certain grains, organic products, and vegetables. It is also found in dental restorative material, prostheses (hip, knee, cochlear and cardiac implants), colour pigments, stainless steel cutlery, pots and pans.
Understanding Nickel Allergy: Causes, Symptoms, and Immune Response
The exact reason for a nickel sensitivity isn’t yet to be discovered. However, analysts believe that the sensitivity to nickel may be hereditary, acquired from a family member. In contrast to immediate hypersensitivities (for example, dust, insect venom and food sensitivities), the reaction in nickel allergy is deferred type, i.e. it happens sometime after the exposure. Following contact with an allergen, it can take 24 to 72 hours before the principal symptoms show up. This ‘delay’ is caused by what are called as helper T cells (medicinal term: T-lymphocytes). Helper T cells play an essential role in the immune system and are found in the skin’s lymph nodes and inner layers. Their function is to protect against certain infections. They append to foreign substances and activate other cells in the immune system to devastate the foreign substances. The so-called memory T cells are then framed. These cells remember precisely which invaders are unwanted to respond quicker in case of re-exposure. In contact hypersensitivity, the helper T cells probably remember a harmless substance like nickel. If the skin is again re-exposed to the ecological substance, the helper T cells will transform in the upper skin layers and cause a provocative response.
Effects of Nickel Allergy on Skin
If earrings irritate your ear auricle or your necklet leaves a rash around your neck, you may be susceptible to nickel. A nickel sensitivity is a response that develops after prolonged exposure to nickel-containing items. The degree of allergic reaction varies from person to person. Individuals can be exposed to nickel through regular things, or one might be exposed to nickel in the working environment condition. Excess exposure to nickel makes the skin red and irritated at first – later on, tiny blisters can show up, making the skin wet and messy. The skin may then strip off. The rashes can start in one part or at different body parts. It is feasible for the rash to spread to even the body parts that haven’t come into contact with the metal. If the symptoms remain on the skin for a long time, the skin will dry out and end up being red, scaly and very hard to clear up.
Diagnosing Metal Hypersensitivity: Assessing Symptoms and Conducting Lab Tests
Your specialist may presume metal hypersensitivities based on your personal history and your signs and symptoms. To determine possible causes of nickel exposure, your specialist may ask if you have any implants, if you smoke or if you routinely use any beautifying products. Besides a careful individual history, your specialist may arrange lab tests to affirm whether you have a nickel allergy. These tests involve blood tests in the laboratory. The laboratory specialists will test the white blood cells for their activity against metal(nickel) ions by utilizing radioisotopes and microscopically observing physical changes within the cells. If the test demonstrates that the white blood cells have increased activity when exposed to the nickel ions, it shows the presence of a nickel allergy.
Understanding the Patch Test Process for Nickel Allergy
A dermatologist can conduct a nickel allergy test to expose various nickel ions to your skin to test for a hypersensitivity response. This sensitivity test is also known as “patch test.”. During the patch test, your specialist applies a small amount of nickel over a patch. The patch is then set on your skin. This test is usually very safe and shouldn’t cause a significant allergic response. They should only cause a minor reaction in individuals sensitive to nickel. Your specialist will observe your skin for around 48 hours after the patch test and check for signs of an unfavourably susceptible response. If the skin looks irritated, you might be adversely affected by nickel.
How can you prevent the nickel hypersensitivity?
The best strategy to prevent a nickel sensitivity from developing is to avoid prolonged exposure to things containing nickel. However, it can be challenging to avoid nickel since it is present in many items. Home test kits are available to check for nickel in the metal items. The following tips may help you avoid nickel exposure:
- Wear hypoallergenic jewellery. It’s normal for a nickel hypersensitivity to develop by wearing adornments containing nickel. Earrings, earbuds and watches are probably the greatest culprits; however, jewellery, rings and bracelets containing nickel can trigger the side effects. To avoid nickel exposure, wear jewellery that is hypoallergenic and without nickel. Likewise, wear watchbands made of up of leather, cloth or plastic.
- Check your clothing. Belt buckles, brassiere hooks, metal buttons and zippers contain nickel. If your garments have these, supplant them with plastic-coated ones. You can also create a boundary between these items and your skin by coating the items with clear nail polish. However, the nail polish will need to be re-applied often.
- Cover gadgets. Some electronic gadgets, including phones, laptops, and tablets, may contain nickel. Always use a protective cover on your electronic gadgets to avoid nickel exposure.
- Substitute household objects containing nickel with products made of other materials.
- Avoid foods containing nickel if you are extremely sensitive to nickel. Some foods containing high amounts of nickel incorporate soya products, such as soybeans, soya sauce, and tofu –liquorice, buckwheat, cocoa powder, cashews and figs.
- Create a barrier between nickel and you if you have to be exposed to nickel at your workplace. Wearing gloves may help.
- Tell your orthodontist about your nickel allergy before getting an orthodontic braces.
- Ask an ophthalmologist if eyeglasses contain nickel before buying them.
- Tell doctors about a nickel allergy before undergoing any surgeries.
There is no cure for nickel hypersensitivity. The best way to prevent allergic reactions is to avoid the allergen. Several medications, including topical steroids and antibiotics, may help treat a rash resulting from a nickel allergic reaction. Some home cures may relieve and calm the skin. These incorporate calamine lotion, hydrating body moisturizer, and cool and wet packs. If medications don’t soothe your symptoms, consult your specialists immediately.
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