Q. I suffered with eczema for years. It was so bad that my sheets were bloody when I woke up. The intense itch in my hands was torture.

I saw numerous doctors, including dermatologists, who prescribed steroid creams and prednisone. I was at the end of my rope when a doctor suggested the nickel in my dental partial was affecting me.

Once I got rid of the metal, my hands started to clear. Surprisingly, so did my depression. I doubt that I am the only one suffering with eczema and depression as a result of nickel toxicity. I am so glad that my eczema is finally almost all gone.

A. Dermatologists have known about nickel allergy for years. Usually it is seen as contact dermatitis. This can show up as a rash or irritation where the snap of a pair of jeans touches the belly. Rings or earrings may also trigger a reaction.

Dentists have reported reactions to nickel in orthodontic appliances and other dental fixtures. Thank you for sharing your story.

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  1. Tre
    Atlanta, GA

    Thank heavens for this post! I now see that I was not going crazy and was actually on the right track all along! All my life, I’ve been relatively healthy with no known allergies. I’ve been an athlete, a combat veteran, and just an all around regular “Joe”. In June of last year, I allowed my fiancé to convince me to get braces put on to close gaps in my teeth all along. Shortly thereafter, I began to break out. First, it was a small portion of my forearm which itched and burned like crazy, not to mention the rash that developed there as well. A week or two later, new itchy spots began to show up on my elbows and other parts of my arm as well as on my forehead. After seeing a dermatologist and being prescribed some topical ointments, the rash cleared – temporarily. I was fine for another week or so after the prescribed period of topical usage only to wake up one morning to painfully swollen hands, which appeared to be caused by the millions of tiny blisters under the skin all over my hands and fingers.

    And so the story goes…dermatologist, topical, clear, breakout. I eventually switched dermatologists initially thinking the original doc had no clue what he was doing. The dermatologist prescribed prednisone along with a topical ointment and although the potential side effects were numerous and quite scary, boy did the prednisone work. My forehead, hands, arms, everything appeared to clear up. Ironically, during the taper-off prednisone period (if you’ve used it you’re familiar), the same trouble spots began to slowly reappear until a full on outbreak was once again in effect. This time though, the blisters burst, turned into rough, peeling skin, and left me with damaged, raw, and split skin on my hands. God was that painful.

    Suffering as I was, I immediately got the dermatologist back on the horn and went for a second round of prednisone – this appeared to be what worked for me and regardless the potential side effects, I just wanted my old beautiful skin back not to mention my fiancé was getting annoyed with my many sleepless nights due to itching profusely. During this time the dermatologist also had me consult an allergist and have “scratch” tests performed to find out if it was food or some other allergen triggering my outbreaks. At no time was metal (nickel to be exact) ever even mentioned although I vaguely remember the orthodontist asking me if I was aware of any such allergies which obviously I replied “no” to because I had no knowledge of such an issue. At any rate, once my dermatologist told me I specifically suffered from dyshidrotic eczema, I began to conduct research as to what the triggers were and all of the results in some shape, form or fashion led me to nickel allergies. Armed with this information, I began another search into what if anything contains nickel to the point I’d have these hideous outbreaks and boom!

    I found this post. I’m currently in the process of going into the orthodontics office and having an emergency removal of the current hardware in my mouth and could care less about an alternative at this point. I want to thank each and every poster/responder for sharing their experiences with all of this. Without you, I wouldn’t have been able to link my condition to the metals used in my orthodontic process. I’ve got an emergency arch wire removal scheduled for tomorrow morning and, if all goes as described by you guys, hope to be able to post my very own miraculous recovery story here sometime in the next few weeks. Cheers!

  2. Cevill

    I have a host of asthma/eczema/allergy problems and have had what I “thought” was a nickel allergy for as long as I can remember. I had a silent heart attack and got thinking about the possibility of maybe needed stents in my future so I asked my allergist about getting tested for nickel because I knew most stents have a nickel component and I know some people have allergic reactions to them and it is very hard to pinpoint that allergy once in the body (besides, what Dr. would say it would be an allergic reaction to the stent). I had the nickel patch testing which took 48 hrs. The Dr.’s office called and said I did NOT have a nickel allergy. I am now wondering if I have no nickel allergy why do I still break out badly from jean’s snaps, jewelry (especially earrings). That will be my first question at my next regularly scheduled visit. I believe I still have a nickel problem. So it may be possible the level of nickel testing isn’t conclusive.

  3. Tracie
    Huntersville, nc

    I have had skin issues for 7 years now. I have seen numerous doctors including traditional western MD’s and naturopaths. I have also explored alternative therapies. Nothing has worked. I did have braces removed and got a dental implant at about the same time that I started having the issue. I was tested to see if I was allergic to the titanium in the implant. Fortunately I was not allergic to the titanium but the results revealed that I have a silver and a nickel allergy. My dentist suggested that I check with my orthodontist to see if either of my 2 permanent retainers could possibly contain nickel or silver. I went to the ortho doc yesterday and he removed one of the retainers which he said did contain nickel. The other one is titanium which tested fine for me. Already, in less than 24 hours my skin has started to settle down and look more normal! I have had itchy patches for 7 years! I wish I had known this way back then. Why don’t doctors think about metal toxicity when dealing with people with skin allergies?

  4. MS

    I’ve been using my iphone for several months now. And after I bought my iphone, my hand started to get real itchy. And I thought it was because of hygiene or something. But after seeing several doctors, the itchiness won’t go away and there were blisters on my hands (it became gradually worse). But then one doctor said I was suffering from eczema. and the doctor told me to frequently moisturize my hands as that was the cause of it. Then I went to see another doctor and she gave me steroids for my eczema because it was really getting worse.

    My hands were clear for a few days. But I kept playing my phone. Then the blisters came again, it started all over again, the itchiness . And then I thought what could be the reason for it to keep flaring up. Then I thought about my iphone and I was sure it was because of it. I haven’t meet up with another doctor yet, but I’m sure I’m suffering because of the metal on the iphone.

  5. RS

    My 3 yr old is experiencing horrible eczema like on her wrist alone for the past 6 months and I have tried all sorts of creams and nothing worked. It looks like blisters, with intense itching sometimes blood due to scratching and I came across about nickel allergy on the net and I removed her artificial bangle and it seems to be clearing hopefully by next week I can confirm if that she’s truly allergic to this metal. If only this turns positive I will relieved. Keeping my fingers crossed

  6. JB

    Jan and KD:
    You both mentioned dermatitis on the hands in association with cleaning/grooming products. You may be sensitive to a preservative called methylisothiazolinone. In recent years it has been used in many, many personal care products.
    I have had mild to moderate eczema on my hands for years causing some slight itchy discomfort. The worst part for is the unsightly peely rash.
    Avoiding the above named ingredient has helped me to reduce the frequency and severity of outbreaks.

    • Kim

      I have just been diagnosed with a nickel, gold and chemical allergy (can’t pronounce it) for soap and such forth. Pure heck to deal with!

      46 years old now and such an emotional roller coaster with the nonsense of unstable family history as well as the physical. Now what to do?

      I feel like I have to live in a bubble yet it is my bubble now. Good grief.

  7. KD

    Jan, I have exactly the same thing! Dawn, any other soaps or cleaning products and I will be itching for months! Only use Dove. Now my 5 year old daughter has the same story. I’ve had this start since I was about 11, when I came to US. It is something with the products here, I came from Russia and I never had issues there with my skin.
    I am now 25 and I have been suffering with this for the last 14 years. I am allergic to some chemicals, so I avoid anything but Dove but I really don’t want my daughter to have to live her life like this. Please let me know if you have any breakthroughs with this.

  8. Fran

    Foods also contain nickel do you should watch out for almonds, spinach, and others. I was getting intense indigestion and discovered that’s what it was.

  9. Darlene R

    My daughter started complaining of itchy hands about 1 month after her retainer was applied. She would pick at her fingers til they would bleed. This was in Spring of 2011, By fall she was complaining that her hands were on fire with discomfort up to her elbows. By Christmas it had spread to her back and feet. She has seen every type of specialist possible and she has stumped them all.
    I gave each doctor a health history of my daughter’s problems that began with braces 4 years ago and none of them thought the retainer was causing the problem. Last week I came across this post and immediately had her retainer removed. I was wondering if anyone else has had similar problems that expand past the itchy hands and tell me how long it may be before she starts to feel better. Also, if anyone has had testing done for an accurate diagnosis. Any info is appreciated. Darlene in Cleveland.

    • Tracie

      Hi Darlene,
      I just read your post. I did a blood test to test for all dental products used by both dentists and orthodontists. It’s called a Clifford Test. That is what told me I was allergic to nickel and silver. I don’t know if that is the only test out there but I don’t think medical doctors use this test at all. I’m not sure they even know about it. I just had my retainer removed yesterday and my skin is already better!
      Good luck!
      Tracie in North Carolina

  10. JILL

    I go Friday to have a nickel test done and I also have eczema, and IBS. I never thought about them all coming from the other.. I feel just bad most of the time.. I really hope I find something to help.. I guess I’ll try the finger nail polish…

  11. janybaby7

    Yes that is true but from what I understand there is much less nickel and it is bonded in such a way as not to be a problem. And I am feeling better so I believe it was related to my other illness.
    I have lived with a chronic, incurable and progressive disease for 16 years. The slightest thing can cause a relapse which is what happened.
    For me this was just a blip on the radar.
    Feel better.

  12. Liz

    Stainless steel is not a naturally occurring metal but an alloy of several metals.

  13. Liz

    Stainless steel is not a naturally occurring metal but an alloy and often containing nickel & chromium & cobalt.
    I have the most straight teeth from my orthodontic work but I would’ve happily given them up if I could’ve traded them for my health.

  14. minks

    I spoke to the dentist and both fixed retainers are made with stainless steel so it is not the retainers. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have a metal problem since I had mercury toxicity and had DMPS for that. But since I have chronic fatigue syndrome it is mostly likely a crash that I’ll just have to get through. And by the way, not all ortho problems can be fixed with a Hawley retainer, like mine for example.

  15. Liz

    Hi Jan, fixed retainers are usually around 10% nickel. I’m in the process of having a MELISA metal allergy test but have pretty much worked out I also have chromium allergy as my improvement plateaued until I stopped my supplements with chromium. A multi and one specific for fibromyalgia ironically! I took a chromium tab the other to see what happened and had a flare. Nickel allergies often occur concurrently with chromium & cobalt which are also probably in the retainer. You need to get it off and get one of those moulded plastic ones if it’s bottom teeth. Not sure if that do that for the top.

  16. Jan

    I’m trying to figure out if my problems are also related to my fixed retainer. I have CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome). Since I got my fixed retainers about a month ago, I’ve had a huge relapse, am fatigued, have serious brain fog and just feel generally horrible. I taped a nickel to my arm for 24 hours and I do have a nickel allergy.
    I contacted the doctor to find out what wire she used so I can know if it is that for sure. I need a retainer, so I guess I’ll get stainless. It was good to hear that it took someone 3 months to see results.

  17. Liz

    I’ve had a decade of eczema, fibromyalgia, IBS and depression. I finally worked out I was allergic to the nickel in my fixed retainer in Jan which I had removed ASAP. I got much worse (suddenly) after the removal and figure I swallowed some. After three months I am finally starting to get better :)

  18. LGF

    We used to coat the snaps on the onesies and the snaps of blue jeans with fingernail polish. That seemed to work for us.

  19. ebm

    anything you put on the skin or the mucus membranes can be absorbed into the bloodstream where it can cause allergic reactions or other not immediately recognizable symptoms.

  20. MAOM7

    My son had a nickel allergy that presented as a rash where the button of his jeans were. Topical meds prescribed by the doctor worked just fine. However, as he grew, he would not tell me his tummy was broken out, and within a few weeks, we’d see the rash on his elbows, back, knees, even on his neck. The nickel allergy had moved to a systemic state and the topical no longer worked. So, I now cover all of his jeans buttons with a tiny piece of fabric I sew on by hand (he’s 20 and still brings his jeans to me to “fix” and he’s careful about jewelry that has nickel in it. He no longer gets a rash at the spot where the nickel touches, it comes out elsewhere, so he has to be cautious.
    I had a nickel allergy as a teenager, but seemed to have outgrown it by the time I was in my 20’s, but I was also careful not to expose myself to nickel, and I think that helped.

  21. LGF

    How can the nickel in a dental partial be possible for itch on the hands? It’s not like it’s handled very long before placement in the mouth. I believe I also have a nickel allergy (though I’ve never been tested), but it has always shown up as contact dermatitis. My son, as an infant, had complete red circles starting at his neck going all the way down his stomach. The pediatrician pointed out that he was allergic to the nickel in the snaps on his onsie. You would have thought the dermatologist would have been able to diagnose it (that’s who we went to first).

  22. Lisme

    I have heard that you can do your own test for nickel allergy. Get a hold of a “buffalo nickel” coin and tape it to your skin. It should cause a reaction if you are sensitive. I haven’t tried this but I have the allergy. The reaction happens quickly and takes a long time to heal. The skin really over-reacts to tiny amounts of nickel. The destruction is astonishing.

  23. msw

    Is it possible for someone to be allergic to titanium dental implants??

    • Katrina

      It doesn’t need to be a buffalo nickel, it could be damn near any us coin. They have nickel in them, (like inside and the edges wear down… or in an alloy in it… you can look up the metal composition of coins online). Years ago I was out biking around and going to bars with friends, I at some point put loose change in my sock. That night I fell asleep and slept all nice with my socks on. A day or so later a rash showed up on my ankle – I thought I had ring worm… I was freaking out. After another day I thought about holding a dime up to the rings and it was a perfect match. NO RINGWORM!

  24. jan s.

    My sister and I both found that DAWN soap and any kind of anti-bacterial soaps gave us eczema on our hands. I take a bar of Dove soap with me whenever I go on vacation with a tiny bar in my purse for airport bathrooms. I don’t seem sensitive to nickel, however.

  25. pcs

    This sounds EXACTLY like my situation, wish I could communicate with the person who wrote the message. I have been tested positive for nickel allergy.

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