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Patch testing

Bruce A Brod, MD
Section Editor
Joseph Fowler, MD
Deputy Editor
Rosamaria Corona, MD, DSc


Patch testing is an essential investigation to identify specific allergens in allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) or, in some cases, to make the diagnosis of ACD. Patch testing is based upon the principle that in sensitized individuals, primed antigen-specific T lymphocytes circulate throughout the body and are able to recreate a delayed type hypersensitivity reaction when non-irritating concentrations of the antigen are applied to normal skin.

This topic will discuss indications, techniques, and interpretation of patch testing. The basic mechanisms, clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and management of ACD are discussed separately. (See "Basic mechanisms and pathophysiology of allergic contact dermatitis" and "Clinical features and diagnosis of allergic contact dermatitis" and "Management of allergic contact dermatitis".)


Indications for patch testing may include:

Persistent eczematous eruptions when contact allergy is suspected [1]

Any chronic dermatitis, especially when involving the hands, feet, face, or eyelids


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Jul 25, 2015.
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