My nickel food allergy diagnosis process

Where It All Began

Experiencing severe red itchy eczema all over my face, neck and arms seven years ago I met with a dermatologist. Recently requesting copies of my medical records reminded me how my dermatologist originally believed my eczema might have been caused by a contact allergy. Before any testing, he recommended I eliminate all fragrances from both my cosmetics and laundry detergents, which I did immediately. Now I use All free & clear laundry detergent, Skintifique to cleanse my face and my Skin Care for Atopic Dermatitis post describes other nickel free products I use.

Within two weeks of eliminating fragrances, my eczema had improved by about 50%. However, I continued to experience severe eczema all over my face – including my eye lids and along my neck. At that point my dermatologist ordered I undergo a skin patch test to determine which possible hidden allergens could be causing my eczema.

A skin patch test is a test where a medical professional places a small sample of a specific number of potential allergens on your skin in little patches or squares. In my case, they used my back to test 127 total potential allergens over a 5 day period.

The skin patch test began on a Monday, where a nurse drew lots of tiny squares on my back. To prepare for my appointment, I brought all of the cosmetic products I used to my doctor’s office. The nurse then applied 24 common cosmetic allergens, 85 standard patch testing allergens and the 18 samples of my personal products I used. Each potential allergen was placed in one of the 127 squares.

I was told to not cleanse or itch my back during the week, as that could compromise the test results. Returning to the clinic both that Wednesday & Friday for a two and four day follow-up allowed the doctor and nurse to chart my skin reactions in relationship to the list of potential allergens. During the Friday appointment my dermatologist diagnosed me with atopic dermatitis and allergies to nickel sulfate, neomycin and thimerosal.

My dermatologist then asked about my diet and informed me about the low nickel diet. He mentioned that many people only react to nickel when they come into direct contact with something that contains nickel. However, small amounts of people have systemic nickel allergy syndrome (SNAS) where they experience eczema when they eat foods high in nickel. Suggesting I try the “low nickel diet” for 6 weeks by avoiding foods higher in nickel, my dermatologist gave me a list of 40 foods that contained higher amounts of nickel.

Feeling overwhelmed I didn’t know where to start. I ate nearly all of those foods on a regular basis, if not daily. Talking with my partner, together we went to the grocery store and spent hours in each store isle reading food labels. For the entire 6 weeks, I limited my intake of foods higher in nickel. My eczema cleared up and I looked like a new person. When I returned to my doctor’s office, it was determined that I was one of the lucky individuals with systemic nickel allergy syndrome or otherwise a nickel food allergy.

Adapting to a food allergy isn’t easy. It took me a couple years to not feel restricted or limited by what I ate. Now I see various possibilities when I think about food. Actually having a diagnosis and treatment plan positively changed my life.

Many of you have told me you had trouble receiving an accurate diagnosis of your nickel allergy and/or nickel food allergy. I know some of you found relief after visiting with an allergist. Undergoing a skin patch test conducted by a dermatologist, which identified I am allergic to nickel and then trying the low nickel diet is how I learned that my atopic dermatitis is caused by ingesting foods higher in nickel.

If you’re newly diagnoses or struggling to determine if you have a nickel food allergy I always suggest visiting with a medical professional. What works for me, might not be what works for you. There might be another reason why your atopic dermatitis isn’t resolving.

I too appreciate all your experiences and insight!