Background: Easily applicable water-specific instruments measuring local oedema in skin are not available. The aim of this study is to demonstrate quantitative assessment of skin oedema with the dielectric technique by measuring increase of skin water content related to sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS)-induced irritant contact dermatitis.
Methods: Irritant skin reaction and resulting oedema were induced by an irritant patch test on volar forearms in 12 healthy volunteers with the application of 1% SLS for 6 h. After occlusion the volunteers were divided into two groups: the patch test site of group I (six volunteers) received no treatment other than a base cream for the skin reaction, while for group II (six volunteers) a strong corticosteroid (clobetasol propionate) was applied on the irritant skin. During a follow-up of 72 h, erythema was scored visually, and irritant-induced oedema was measured with a novel water-specific instrument MoistureMeter-D.
Results: In the untreated irritant skin, a maximum increase of 45% in skin water content was found at 10 h postocclusion and water content was still elevated at 72 h. With these persons, the degree of oedema agreed well with the ultrasound-measured skin thickness (P=0.053). In the corticosteroid-treated skin, an increase of 8% in water content was measured during 72 h but there was no correlation between oedema and skin thickness. There was no correlation between erythema and oedema in untreated or corticosteroid-treated skin.
Conclusion: The new instrument can easily be applied for noninvasive quantitative evaluation of local oedema and fluid retention in irritant-exposed skin.