• Occupational;
  • allergic contact dermatitis;
  • hand dermatitis;
  • cutting oil dermatitis;
  • prognosis;
  • questionnaire;
  • metalworkers;
  • engineering industry

Hand dermatitis is common in workers employed in the cutting and grinding of metals. Previous studies have given conflicting results on the prognosis of this common occupational disease. This study was designed to determine the prognosis of hand dermatitis in metalworkers and the responsible allergens. A questionnaire survey was conducted on 64 patients seen between 1 and 5 years previously in the contact dermatitis clinic. Of the 51 patients responding, 82% still had hand dermatitis. There was no difference in outcome between those who continued to work with metals and oils, and those who had changed their occupation. Hand dermatitis in metalworkers carries a poor prognosis, with most workers remaining symptomatic even if they no longer had occupational exposure to metals or oils. This study also demonstrates that biocides are the most important allergen group in the aetiology of hand dermatitis in metalworkers.