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Mobile phone use causes rise in skin problem

Skin specialists are reporting a new phenomenon they are dubbing 'mobile phone dermatitis' where metals used in the phone handset is irritating the skin on the face.


Around one third of people are sensitive to nickel which is used extensively in mobile phone handsets, including the buttons and the surround of the screen.


All doctors should be alert that these people are at risk of developing dermatitis on their face if they use their phone regularly, the British Association of Dermatologists has said.


The skin can become red, inflammed, blistered, dry and cracked in these cases.


A series of research papers have been published by doctors reporting an increase in dermatitis cases triggered by mobile phone use and the problem appears to be increasing, the dermatologists warned.


Women have a higher risk of developing mobile phone dermatitis, as they are more likely to have been previously sensitised to the metal following an allergic reaction to nickel-coated jewellery.


Dr Graham Lowe, from the British Association of Dermatologists, said: "The allergy results from frequent skin contact with nickel-containing objects. Prolonged or repetitive contact with a nickel-containing phone is more likely to cause a skin reaction in those who are allergic. If you have had a previous reaction to a nickel-coated belt-buckle or jewellery, for example, you are at greater risk of reacting to metal phones.


"In mobile phone dermatitis, the rash would typically occur on the cheek or ear, depending on where the metal part of the phone comes into contact with the skin. In theory it could even occur on the fingers if you spend a lot of time texting on metal menu buttons.


"It is worth doctors bearing this condition in mind if they see a patient with a rash on the cheek or ear that cannot otherwise be explained."


In a study published earlier this year, doctors in the US tested for nickel in 22 popular handsets from eight different manufacturers, and found it present in ten of them.


Dr Lionel Bercovitch, one of the study's authors from Brown University, Rhode Island, said: "Nearly half of the phones we spot tested contained some free nickel. The menu buttons, decorative logos on the headsets and the metallic frames around the liquid crystal display (LCD) screens were the most common sites... Those with the more fashionable designs often have metallic accents and are more likely to contain free nickel in their casings.


"Given the widespread use of cell phones, the presence of metal in the exterior casing of these phones and the high prevalence of nickel sensitisation in the population, it is not surprising that cell phones can cause allergic contact dermatitis."


The association is advising anyone who develops a rash on their face which might be attributable to prolonged mobile phone use to seek advice from their doctor.


Source: Rebecca Smith, Medical Editor, Telegraph

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