Background Previous studies show that use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is frequent among dermatological patients in general and that the use of CAM is linked to disease severity and duration.
Objectives To investigate factors influencing the use of CAM and visits to alternative practitioners among patients with allergic contact dermatitis.
Methods The study was a postal questionnaire survey among 485 patients with allergic contact dermatitis to fragrances and preservatives in consumer products. The questionnaire included questions about use of conventional treatment, use of CAM and visits to alternative therapists. It also included questions about eczema severity and duration as well as social factors. The patients were recruited from one dermatological clinic in the capital city area and two clinics in smaller cities.
Results The response rate was 79%. Forty per cent of respondents were users of CAM, predominantly in combination with conventional treatment, and 29% had visited an alternative practitioner. Women were found to be significantly more frequent users of CAM and visitors to alternative practitioners than men, and patients from urban/rural districts reported more frequent use of CAM than patients from the capital city area. Frequent eczema eruptions, hand eczema, long duration of disease and work-related problems were positively associated with use of CAM and/or visits to alternative practitioners.
Conclusions The typical CAM user is female, lives in a rural district or town (not the capital area), has long disease duration and often work-related problems. Overall, the use of CAM is not an alternative to conventional treatment, but is a supplement.