Married 5 years - why are my rings suddenly causing irritation?
December 18, 2011 5:16 PM   Subscribe

Married 5 years - why are my rings suddenly causing irritation?

Both my engagement and wedding rings are white gold, plated with rhodium. The engagement ring was bought from a local, well-known jewelry store with a good reputation. The wedding ring was bought from a national chain. Once a year I have them re-plated.

I've been married for 5 years with no issue with my rings. About a month ago, I noticed that my left ring-finger was suddenly itchy, red and irritated. I stopped wearing the rings for a few days and applied hydrocortisone. Once my finger felt better, I started wearing the rings again, but the same thing happened again. So I figured they were due for a cleaning and re-plating. I took them to the jewelers that sold my husband the engagement ring. When I mentioned the issue with my finger, the jeweler showed me the underside of my engagement ring, beneath where the diamond is - there are some crevasses where some dried soap had collected, and he said that this can sometimes cause irritation. After getting the rings back, I wore them for about 2 days before the irritation started again.

So for the past week I've only been wearing the rings when we go out to some party or event, to ensure that people don't start wondering why I'm not wearing them and get the wrong idea. I wore them for a Christmas party last night, and forgot about them until this morning when my finger started itching like crazy. I took the rings off, and found two tiny blisters on the side of my finger - nowhere near the underside of the diamond, so I don't think dried soap was the cause.

So I'm not sure what to think. Does anyone have any ideas why this is suddenly happening, or what to do about it? I obviously don't want to go without wearing my wedding & engagement rings for the rest of my life, but the irritation drives me crazy.

Nothing else has changed. I've been using the same hand lotion for about a decade (Suave cocoa butter lotion), there have been no changes in my health or in the water in our house.
posted by LaurenIpsum to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It is possible to become sensitive over time. You're probably reacting to something in the gold alloy. You may have to switch your setting. Platinum? As an experiment, can you wear silver without irritation?
posted by sageleaf at 5:22 PM on December 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

The same thing happened to me....I got eczema under the ring. Unfortunately, you should probably wait several weeks for the irritation to fully subside. When this happens to me, I just run my rings onto a chain and wear it around my neck. Once the irritation goes away, it should help to remove your ring every night, and try to keep the area around your ring as dry as possible after you wash your hands.
posted by nasayre at 5:36 PM on December 18, 2011

Were they actually re-plated when you took them in? White gold gives me exactly the rash you describe, in exactly the same pattern - take the ring off and treat with hydrocortisone for a couple of days and it's fine, wear the ring 2 days and it's back.

If they were re-plated, you may have to do like nasarye says and let it really heal for several weeks. Of course, once you put your rings on a chain around your neck everyone will assume you're pregnant, so there's that to deal with, but it's slightly preferable to that godawful itching. If you wait that long and the rash still comes back, it's probably worth showing the rash to a dermatologist for proper identification.

(I wear a $15 silver ring now, it became too much of a hassle.)
posted by Lyn Never at 5:41 PM on December 18, 2011

I was bitten by a tiny little spider in January. My finger swelled, I removed my ring, finger was itchy for a week and then the bite went away. Or so I thought. But I wasn't able to wear my (platinum) ring for months because anything near the bite site made it itch like a mofo. It took months and months of wearing no ring at all before it got better and even now I have to be super careful not to let water sit on the skin under the ring because it gets sensitive all over again.

So yeah - it's possible to suddenly get super-sensitive, platinum might not be a workable solution, and time does help.
posted by ninazer0 at 5:56 PM on December 18, 2011

I get this occasionally under my white gold ring, the setting is a row of small diamonds set flush across the top half of the band and there is space for moisture to collect under the stones when I wash my hands. After I use cortisone to get rid of the rash, I have to be extra vigilant about making sure to dry under the ring really well every time I wash my hands, or take it off when I wash my hands or the rash will come back. It's become a habit to dry under the ring every time I wash my hands and I hardly ever get the rash anymore.
posted by blacktshirtandjeans at 6:23 PM on December 18, 2011

This happened to me after I had a baby. No one has been able to tel me why. I take the rings off each night instead of sleeping in them each night and it seems to help.
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:36 PM on December 18, 2011

I had this problem horribly for a very long time. (Mine was a platinum and diamond eternity band.) It was an itchy red rash with both clear blisters and dry patches. After much misery -- and much research -- I eventually boiled my ring in a hydrogen peroxide solution. I also let my finger heal fully before putting the ring back on. It seems to have worked very well. (Disclaimer: I can't recall the exact solution I used, though I know it either contained or consisted solely of peroxide, and I don't claim to know anything about jewelry care. I just know I felt comfortable enough to try this out, and saw no damage to my ring. Just proceed with caution!)
posted by justonegirl at 6:43 PM on December 18, 2011

It sounds like eczema. I would go a few weeks without them on (maybe keep them on a chain around your neck).
posted by Danithegirl at 6:43 PM on December 18, 2011

It can be a fungal infection, or a yeast infection. Try the usual over-the-counter creams, and keep it dry. Have your ring thoroughly, professionally cleaned (pickling solution and everything) and don't wear it until you're healed. When you do try it again, take care to dry underneath it when you clean your hands. Clean your ring of soap buildup by using ammonia and detergent in warm water, and using a small brush to get in the grooves. Dry it well. Some will swear by soaking or boiling it in peroxide or vinegar, but ammonia is a good grease-remover too.

If you're frequently re-plating it, it's not likely a nickel allergy from the white gold, though some platinum alloys can have nickel in them too. A Rhodium allergy is unusual, but possible too. Are you always having the work done by the same place? Can something they're using have changed? If it persists, a dermatologist can check into it. I've had customers who were able to wear irritating metals after coating the insides of their rings or earrings with clear nail polish -- but some skin can be sensitive to even that too. (I'm formerly a jeweller.)
posted by peagood at 8:16 PM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

In my twenties, I suddenly and without warning developed an allergy to nickel. Not saying your rings contain nickel, but its not unheard of to suddenly develop an allergy to a metal.
posted by seanyboy at 2:10 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am going to echo seanyboy that you may have developed an allergy to nickel. I too suddenly developed one, and it is common for white gold to have nickel in it (I wound up having to get a titanium watch and hypoallergenic eyeglasses as well, so watch and see if you react to other things. Lots of stuff has nickel in it). Even a microscopic break in the rhodium plating would expose you, and these types of platings on rings are super thin anyway. Peagood has some very good advice as well. In general the advice to let things heal before putting the rings back on, take them off at night and when you don't need to wear them, and also try to keep your hands dry when wearing the rings would also be good.
posted by gudrun at 8:49 AM on December 19, 2011

When the under-ring itching happened to my husband, it turned out to be a fungus. He treated it with athlete's foot cream.
posted by wryly at 10:53 AM on December 19, 2011

The same thing happened to my wife. Her ring is also white gold, and replating didn't seem to help at all. We've read suggestions elsewhere about coating the inside of the ring in clear nail polish, but she hasn't tried this yet because she's concerned that this could do something bad to the ring itself.
posted by tkolstee at 8:26 AM on December 20, 2011

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