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Hand eczema refers to a group of skin conditions that cause dermatitis on the hands.  Dermatitis (also known as eczema) refers to inflammation of the skin that usually results in red, scaly patches.  Hand dermatitis can be painful and disabling and can interfere with one's ability to work.

What Hand Eczema Look Like?

There are several different kinds of hand eczema.  Most types result in red, scaly patches onthe skin.  Sometimes there is also cracking of the skin and/or blister formation.

What Causes Hand Eczema?

Hand eczema can be caused by such factors as:

  • Genetics (atopic hand eczema).  Atopic dermatitis often runs in families
  • Irritation from such exposures as cold, harsh soaps and cleansers, solvents in cleansing products and other skin irritants
  • Allergic reactions to chemicals in our environment
  • Unknown factors cause a significant percentage of cases.

Are There Other Conditions Associated with Hand Eczema?

Yes.  People with hand eczema may also have eczema on their feet.  Patients who have atopic hand eczema may have atopic dermatitis anywhere else on the body. These people are also more likely to have seasonal allergies and asthma.

How is Hand Dermatitis Treated?

  • Hand dermatitis is most commonly treated with topical corticosteroid creams or ointments.   
  • Ultraviolet light treatments (phototherapy) are sometimes used.  These can be used alone or in combination with medications
  • Alitretinoin is an oral retinoid medication that works well for some people with eczema
  • For cases that have not improved with other treatments, medications that suppress the immune system are sometimes used
  • If your dermatologist is concerned that you may be experiencing an allergic reaction, s/he may recommend a type of allergy testing known as patch testing

Are There any other Changes I can Make that Would be Helpful?

Yes!!  Proper hand care is of the utmost importance in individuals with hand eczema.  Consider following the following guidelines:

  1. Minimize hand washing as much as possible.  When washing your hands use lukewarm water and very little soap.
  2. Avoid bar soaps.  Use liquid, soap-free, non-foaming, unscented cleansers instead
  3. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize!!  Apply a rich moisturizer several times per day.  The best time to apply a moisturizer is after hand washing
  4. Protect your hands from chemicals by wearing heavy-duty vinyl gloves.  Wear cotton gloves underneath these to absorb sweat.
  5. Wear rubber gloves that are lined with cotton whenever doing any wet work or cleaning around the house.  Wear gloves when working with lemons, oranges, grapefruits or tomatoes
  6. If you have a dishwasher, use it as much as possible.
  7. Wear unlined leather gloves when outdoors in cold weather