All About Hand Eczema
Eczema is a skin condition in which the skin becomes dry and itchy, often flaking and peeling away so that life for the sufferer becomes anywhere from mildly uncomfortable to virtually unbearable.
While eczema can appear almost anywhere on the body, some people suffer from hand eczema, which can affect all parts of the hands. In fact, the hands are the most common part of the body to be affected by eczema, which is also known by the name dermatitis.
Hand eczema can range from occasional mild redness to chronic blistering, cracking and peeling of the skin. At its worse, it can cause deep fissures in the skin, and be so painful – and unrelenting - that sufferers experience depression as a result.
Causes of Hand EczemaHand eczema can be caused by a variety of reasons, although often it is difficult – if not impossible – pinpoint a cause. Some of the reasons you might be experiencing hand eczema can include:
- Allergens. You may be allergic to something which is setting off your eczema. An allergen scratch test, a patch test or a blood test may help in determining the cause. A milk allergy, for example, can often cause eczema in babies and children.
- Irritants. Sometimes the cause is a common irritant, such as a brand of washing powder or soap. Excluding such things from your daily routine for a few days may help you discover if a household irritant is the culprit.
- Genetics. Eczema can be hereditary. If you have a history of asthma or hay fever in your family, you can be more prone to developing eczema.
- Stress. Many people underestimate the role stress can play in their lives. But if you keep a daily diary of your hand eczema, you may find that stress is playing a greater role than you may realise.
Diagnosis and TreatmentHand eczema that goes away after identifying certain triggers is the best kind to have. But if your hand eczema persists for more than six months no matter what you try, it is considered to be chronic.
The first step in treating such a condition is to get the right diagnosis, by visiting your GP or a dermatologist, and carrying out the right tests. Although there is no cure for eczema as such, most people find it is possible to keep the condition under control, and avoid or manage flare-ups when they occur.
Your doctor will probably do at least some, if not all, of the following to help make sure your hand eczema gets better – and stays better:
- Topical treatments. Your GP could prescribe emollients and steroid creams. Topical immunosuppressants are used for people with moderate or severe eczema, for whom other topical treatments have failed.
- Oral treatments. These can range from taking antibiotics and antihistamines to oral steroids, for more severe cases of hand eczema.
- Ultraviolet light treatment. These work in some cases as the body produces an exaggerated immune response, therefore reducing inflammation in the body. However, this treatment is not suitable for everyone and will require a big commitment: you may need to come to the clinic up to five times a week for half a year!
Coping on the JobHand eczema is commonly associated with several professions, which are considered high risk for the complaint because they involved the use of substances considered hand eczema “triggers”. Such jobs include:
- Motor vehicle industry
These precautions include providing appropriate protective clothing (gloves) and equipment, as well as finding ways to protect you from specific substances if you find they are aggravating your condition.
Think PositiveWhile eczema is not contagious, chronic eczema can make life distressing and uncomfortable. Many people who suffer from it find it difficult to do their work, and some find it affects their everyday life to a noticeable degree.
Luckily, there are treatments available which might not be seen as a “cure”, but which can keep hand eczema under control. Getting the right diagnosis, identifying certain allergens, irritant and triggers, and using the right emollients with the right frequency can make all the difference.