Hand eczema, also known as hand dermatitis, is a common condition that affects up to one in 20 people. This form of eczema can start in childhood and in these cases it’s likely the child will also have had atopic eczema, affecting other parts of the body. The other major group of patients suffering from hand eczema is working-age adults with symptoms that can range from mild dryness and discomfort to severe, where it becomes so debilitating that it impacts daily life and work.
Hands that are affected by hand dermatitis will feel dry, hot, itchy, sore and rough. The skin tends to look dry and flaky as well as being cracked, red and inflamed. It can affect the finger pulps (the pads at the tips of the finger), finger webs, the sides of the fingers, the back of the hands or the palms.
Causes of Hand Eczema:
- Having a weakened skin barrier
- Irritant contact dermatitis caused by frequent contact with water, chemicals or irritants; often seen in cleaners, caretakers, chefs, hairdressers etc
- Allergic contact dermatitis caused by having an allergy towards chemicals found at home such as perfumes, rubber, leather etc
Hand eczema is usually diagnosed by taking a history from the patient, while also examining the hands and other parts of the body. Patch testing may be required if allergic contact dermatitis is suspected.
How to Control and Manage Hand Eczema?
- Do not peel or chop onion, garlic, tomatoes, citrus fruits or chilles with bare hands as these can be irritating to the skin
- Keep the inside of rings clean
- Wear cotton gloves underneath protective gloves when in contact with irritant chemicals and water for a prolonged period
- Protective gloves should be cleaned and dried inside out regularly
- Moisturize your hands frequently
- When washing, use soap substitutes instead of liquid or bar soaps
- Topical steroid is used to control inflammation and itch; which may then be switched to topical non-steroidal medication(pimecrolimus/tacrolimus) once symptoms are less acute
So, take some time to think about your daily routines, your hobbies, habits and even your occupation – these can help us find ways to decrease further damage to the poor hands. Good hand care will help repair the skin, reduce further damage and reduce the chance of eczema ever coming back once it is cleared.