Occupational Acne

Occupational acne is a localised form of acne caused by exposure of the skin to chemicals and other irritant substances found in the workplace. The incidence of occupational acne has fallen in recent years due the strengthening of Health and Safety legislation and improved industrial working practices.

Causes of Occupational Acne

Occupational acne may develop as a result of exposure of the skin to a number of different chemicals and irritants, the majority of which are used only in industrial processes. The substances which cause occupational acne have a directly comedogenic effect - they have been shown experimentally to provoke the development of comedones when applied to healthy skin. Some of the worst cases of occupational acne occur in people exposed to halogenated hydrocarbons, for example chlor-napthalene, which cause a severe and persistent form of acne known as chloracne. Other substances capable of causing occupational acne include tar, which causes comedones, and mineral oil, which causes both comedones and folliculitis, inflammation of the hair follicles, which is superficial and often widely dispersed.

Diagnosis of Occupational Acne

Many cases of occupational acne are self-diagnosed by the patient, for although the spots caused by occupational acne are of the characteristic acne type, the distribution of the spots on the body tends to be localised and quite unlike that found in the other clinical types of acne. It is usually possible to match the pattern of acne spots to the pattern of chemical exposure The spots of occupational acne develop only on areas of skin which have come into direct contact with acne-causing chemicals or irritant substances, which are usually found only in the workplace, but may also be used in some hobby activities. The development in someone of working age of acne-type spots with an unusual pattern of distribution on the body makes occupational acne a likely diagnosis. The diagnosis will be confirmed if the patient's medical history reveals that his/her work or hobbies involve exposure to chemicals capable of causing occupational acne. It is usually possible to match the pattern of acne spots on the body to the pattern of chemical exposure in the workplace - for example someone who works seated at a bench, whose sleeves are habitually soaked with mineral oil, will develop acne on the inner aspect of the forearms.

Treatment of Occupational Acne

There is considerable variation in the severity of occupational acne, dependent at least in part on the type of substance to which the patient has been exposed and the length and extent of the exposure. Occupational acne is a form of industrial disease and may give rise to a claim for compensation Some cases of occupational acne will resolve quickly without acne medication, provided that further exposure to the causative substance is prevented, whereas in others cases, particularly cases of chloracne, weeks or months of intensive acne treatment may be required. It should be borne in mind that occupational acne is a preventable industrial disease. Consultation with a medical specialist is advisable in cases of occupational acne, since the condition may give rise to a claim for compensation from the employer, which will need to be supported by independent medical evidence.