Abietic Acid Dermatitis

What is Abietic Acid Dermatitis?

Abietic acid dermatitis is a form of contact dermatitis, that is, dermatitis caused by physical contact of the skin to an irritating agent. Specifically, abietic acid dermatitis is triggered by exposure to abietic acid. Abietic acid is most commonly found in rosin, as is used for string instruments.

Abietic acid dermatitis is characterized in the same way as most contact dermatitis conditions: the skin swells and inflames and may feel hot or tight. Skin may dry and flake, and will almost certainly turn red.

Who gets Abietic Acid Dermatitis?

Abietic acid dermatitis afflicts those sensitive to abietic acid, first. This is a purely incidental condition, although it may correlate with other forms of skin allergy and sensitivity.

The primary source of abietic acid exposure is from rosin. Rosin is used by practitioners of string instruments to increase friction between their bows and strings. This produces a richer tone and is necessary for sound quality. In addition, there are many practitioners of various indoor sports that rely on rosin to keep their grip on smooth or waxed floors. Among them are professional gymnasts, bowlers, players of squash and raquetball, all of whom may sustain serious injury should they lose their balance. Dancers, as well, including those in ballet, may also rosin the soles of their shoes.

Individuals with sensitive skin may suffer from some form of reaction to abietic acid even without a true allergy underlying their health to make it worse.

What causes Abietic Acid Dermatitis?

Abietic acid dermatitis is caused by abietic acid exposure, which some may be sensitive to. Individuals that suffer from abietic acid sensitivity and are exposed to abietic acid are likely to suffer an outbreak of abietic acid dermatitis. Abietic acid dermatitis is frequently compared with halogen acne, but it is not an acneiform condition and is not affected by sebaceous hyperplasia.

What does Abietic Acid Dermatitis cause?

Abietic acid dermatitis frequently causes discomfort. However, this is the extent of the damage it can inflict. Some lasting discoloration of the skin may remain after abietic acid dermatitis subsides, but this generally does not persist.

How serious is Abietic Acid Dermatitis?

Abietic acid dermatitis is not exceptionally serious. It is a nuisance, rather than a danger. Abietic acid dermatitis has a tendency to play itself out over a fairly short period of time. Abietic acid dermatitis can be serious when an individual is unaware that they are being exposed to abietic acid. Anyone who is not a ballet dancer, strings musician or has some other similar reason for using something containing abietic acid should be concerned about the source of their exposure.

What does Abietic Acid Dermatitis treatment look like?

Treatment of abietic acid dermatitis, naturally, involves removal of oneself from the source of exposure. However, most individuals that are exposed to abietic acid dermatitis are dancers, musicians or athletes. Consequently, it is rare that the solution is so simple as ‘stop using rosin with abietic acid’.

Treatment can be employed for individuals unable or unwilling to part from the source of their abietic acid exposure. Corticoids (steroid hormones) can help to reduce the swelling and inflammation, but not everyone can use these safely. Various acid treatments, as those used for acne, may be beneficial. Additionally, astringents can play a very good role in healing, as they can strip away chemicals to nullify exposure.

How do I know if I have Abietic Acid Dermatitis?

Abietic acid dermatitis can be very easily mistaken for other ailments. The rash is not particularly distinct. A correlation between beginning the use of rosin and the formation of a rash can indicate abietic acid dermatitis, but this correlation may be shared with other factors, such as the use of a fiddling bow, which may cause a very similar rash.

Spot testing (also called patch testing) performed by a dermatologist can be used to rule out other allergies by way of exposure. Because removal of the allergen is the fastest means by which to relieve the discomfort of a contact allergy, isolation and identification of the specific allergy can make a big difference.

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