Wedding ring rash is a fairly common skin rash that occurs under the band of a ring. Individuals with a history of sensitive skin, eczema, allergies, or atopic dermatitis are more prone to this type of rash. Wedding ring rash is most commonly caused by either an actual allergy to the nickel component of the ring itself or an irritation from the buildup of soap and/or debris under the ring. Often the rash may occur even after many years of wearing the same ring without any problems. Over the course of a few days to weeks, a small red patch of skin may begin to appear under the ring. This rash may initially come and go spontaneously and after a while become chronic.
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Wedding ring rash is also called wedding ring dermatitis. Although wedding ring dermatitis is most common in married women, essentially anyone wearing any ring for prolonged periods could develop an allergic skin reaction.
Most 14K-18K gold jewelry has a small component of nickel used to harden the naturally soft and malleable gold. Nickel allergies are extremely common, but many people are unaware that they are allergic to this metal. Recently, there seems to be an increase in the number of nickel allergic people. Once you are allergic to this metal, the allergy persists.
Nickel allergies may be a skin reaction to contact with many products such as metal buttons on jeans, bra clasps, and metal cases. If you suspect that you may be allergic to nickel, a painless and easy patch test is available through an allergist or a dermatologist to help confirm this diagnosis. If you already have confirmed that you are allergic to nickel, there is an inexpensive nickel test for home use that readily permits checking products for nickel content.
Wedding ring rash may also arise simply from irritation from soap and water trapped under the ring for prolonged periods of time. Wearing a ring on the same finger every day gives no to little room for the skin beneath to air out. Sometimes just wearing the ring on a different finger is helpful. Simply removing the ring for each hand washing and drying the ring and the finger well before replacing the ring may be effective in relieving this type of wedding ring rash.
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Wedding ring rash is easily treatable and usually improves by minimizing contact with the skin and use of a topical cortisone cream like hydrocortisone (Cortaid). More resistant cases may require a short-course treatment with a prescription-strength cortisone cream like clobetasol (Temovate, Embeline) or triamcinolone (Kenalog, Aristocort A). In mild nickel allergies, regularly applying a thin coat of clear nail polish underneath the wedding ring may help to decrease skin contact with nickel. In cases of severe nickel allergy, changing to a platinum or titanium ring band may help alleviate the symptoms. If the rash does not get better after five to seven days of avoiding the ring or using cortisone creams, professional medical care may be warranted to exclude other causes.
Freedberg, Irwin M., Eisen, Arthur Z., Wolff, Klauss, Austen, K. Frank, Goldsmith, Lowell A., Katz, Stephen. Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 6th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, January 1999.