Research suggests that as metal allergies and implants grow in frequency, some patients may need to consult a dermatologist for treatment.
Metal implants may lead to skin conditions such as dermatitis, according to a press release1 from the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) Annual Meeting.
“Metal—nickel in particular—is one of the most common culprits of allergic contact dermatitis,” said Golara Honari, MD, FAAD, in the press release. Honari is a clinical associate professor of dermatology at Stanford School of Medicine.
“This condition occurs when the affected skin is exposed to an allergen, often leading to metal allergy as it relates to their metal implants—including joint replacements, rods, pins, screws, plates, certain neurologic and cardiac devices such as pacemakers, and dental devices—are becoming more prevalent as medical implants become more common,” she said.
According to current research, an estimated 10% of Americans will receive a metal implant at some point during their life. Millions of Americans report having an allergy to metal, and about 10% to 20% of the population has a reported hypersensitivity to metal.
Honari recommended individuals with suspected or documented metal allergies notify not only their physician or surgeon, but also their dermatologist.
“There are alternatives to metal implants,” she said. “For example, if it’s an orthopedic implant, there are ceramic options, which won’t affect those who have a metal allergy. There must be a very close relationship between the surgeon and dermatologist as they work together to consider if a patient needs a different type of implant or if they should be tested for metal allergies prior to surgery.”
If patients with existing metal implants suspect they are having an allergic reaction, Honari said it is important to consult their surgeon and a board-certified dermatologist.
“A dermatologist can work with you and you surgeon to determine the best course of action based on your symptoms,” she said.
Common courses of action for metal allergies in patients with allergic reactions may include topical or oral medications, such as anti-inflammatories. In cases where these treatments are ineffective, implant removal and/or replacement with an alternative implant material may be required.