Occupational skin diseases

Last updated: August 17, 2023

Summarytoggle arrow icon

Occupational skin diseases are contracted primarily as a result of an exposure arising from work activity and are the second most common employer-reported occupational disorder. The most common manifestations include irritant contact dermatitis, occupational acne, and latex allergy. Other occupational diseases covered elsewhere include: asbestosis, mesothelioma, and silicosis. For precancerous skin diseases, see “Precancerous skin lesions.”

Epidemiologytoggle arrow icon

Irritant contact dermatitistoggle arrow icon

Irritant vs. allergic contact dermatitis
Irritant contact dermatitis Allergic contact dermatitis
Type of reaction
  • Nonimmunologic reaction
  • The agent has a direct cytotoxic effect on skin cells and the inflammatory response is secondary to cutaneous damage, not to the agent itself.
Subjects at risk
  • Health care workers
  • Individuals working in the cosmetic industry, hairdressers
  • Metal workers
  • Predisposed individuals
Skin involvement
  • Borders typically well defined
  • Limited to contact area
  • Ill-defined borders
  • Extends beyond contact area
  • Subacute to chronic
  • Repeated exposure to causative agent is necessary (no sensitization)
  • Acute to subacute (onset is usually rapid)
  • Patients need to be sensitized to allergen first
Clinical features
Diagnostic tests


Occupational acnetoggle arrow icon

Latex allergytoggle arrow icon

Referencestoggle arrow icon

  1. NIOSH Alert on Work-Related Latex Allergy Recommends Steps to Reduce Exposures. Updated: July 22, 2015. Accessed: January 28, 2021.
  2. Heese A, van Hintzenstern J, Peters KP, Koch HU, Hornstein OP. Allergic and irritant reactions to rubber gloves in medical health services. Spectrum, diagnostic approach, and therapy.. J Am Acad Dermatol. 1991; 25 (5 Pt 1): p.831-9.doi: 10.1016/s0190-9622(08)80977-2 . | Open in Read by QxMD
  3. Breiteneder H, Scheiner O. Molecular and immunological characteristics of latex allergens.. Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 1998; 116 (2): p.83-92.doi: 10.1159/000023930 . | Open in Read by QxMD
  4. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) - National Occupational Research Agenda. Updated: June 6, 2014. Accessed: January 28, 2021.
  5. Litchman G, Nair PA, Atwater AR, Bhutta BS. Contact Dermatitis. StatPearls. 2020.

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 Evidence-based content, created and peer-reviewed by physicians. Read the disclaimer