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Keywords:

  • contact allergy;
  • contact dermatitis;
  • cutaneous field stimulation nickel;
  • patch test;
  • prick test;
  • sensory nerves

Background: A new technique, cutaneous field stimulation (CFS), which activates electrically unmyelinated C-fibers, is used to treat localized itch. Its action is similar to that of capsaicin, the pungent agent in hot peppers, which enhances delayed allergic reactions. The aim of the study was to investigate how experimental contact dermatitis responds to CFS.

Methods: Twelve patients with contact dermatitis in response to nickel were treated by CFS for 1 h each for four consecutive days. A flexible plate containing electrodes was applied to a test area on the upper arm and was stimulated by a constant current (0.8 mA). On the fifth day, patients were provoked by epicutaneous application of nickel sulfate (allergic contact dermatitis) and benzalkonium chloride (irritant contact dermatitis), and by intradermal tuberculin (delayed immunologic reaction). Twelve other patients with IgE-mediated allergy were treated by CFS on the lower arm for 1 h and were then pricked with histamine and allergen extracts (wheal volume was measured) and were tested using benzoic acid (nonimmunologic contact urticaria; closed test). Ten of these patients were also treated by CFS for four days, and experiments were performed on the fifth day.

Results: Test reactions to nickel, benzalkonium, and tuberculin were found to be unaffected by CFS treatment. Although allergic prick test reactions were enhanced (by 28%) after a single CFS treatment, the associated itch was significantly reduced both after single and repeated CFS treatments (by 65% and 38%, respectively).

Conclusions: Repeated use of CFS to reduce itch has no adverse effects on contact dermatitis.