Posted on: 5 October 2015Share
Hand eczema is a distressing skin condition that makes your hands very itchy and red. Here are five things that you need to know about hand eczema
What are the signs of hand eczema?
If you have hand eczema, you will notice that the skin on the backs of your hands is very dry and itchy. Some people get so itchy that they scratch their hands until they bleed. The skin will be red, and you may develop a rash in the area. Your skin may become scaly or leathery, and fluids may ooze from your skin
What causes hand eczema?
The outermost layer of your skin, the stratum corneum, protects the inner layers of your skin and prevents water loss. Hand eczema is thought to occur when this outermost layer is lost. This allows irritants to reach the innermost layers of your skin and allows your skin to dry out and become itchy. There many different things that can lead to this condition. Here are a few things that have been identified as risk factors:
- Having atopic dermatitis, an itchy skin condition;
- Genetic predisposition;
- Being allergic to nickel;
- Being employed in the healthcare, food service, or janitorial fields;
- Frequent handwashing;
- Wearing latex gloves;
- Chemical exposure.
How serious is hand eczema?
Hand eczema is very uncomfortable and may affect your self-esteem, but it can also lead to more serious health problems. When you have eczema, the skin on your hands may crack or break, and when this happens, there is a risk that bacteria will get inside those small cuts and lead to infection. If not treated, these infections can spread from your hands to the rest of your body.
The herpes simplex virus can also get inside the cuts in your skin. This virus is the same one that is responsible for cold sores, but when it gets into your cracked skin, it leads to a more serious condition, eczema herpeticum. Eczema herpeticum leads to fluid-filled blisters and open sores on your hands and is very painful. You may also develop a high fever if you have this condition.
Fortunately, these complications can be avoided if you get your hand eczema treated promptly. Don't delay getting treatment, as it will only allow the problem to get worse.
How is this condition treated?
Your dermatologist can offer a few different treatments for hand eczema. Your dermatologist may give you a prescription for a corticosteroid cream; corticosteroids work by reducing inflammation and irritation. You will be told to rub this cream on your skin as needed to relieve your symptoms. It's important that you don't use it when you're not feeling symptoms, because corticosteroids can have unpleasant side effects such as thinning of the skin and should only be used when they are truly necessary.
If you are unable to take corticosteroids, or if you've tried corticosteroids and they don't work for you, non-corticosteroid creams are also available. The active ingredient in these creams will be either tacrolimus or pimecrolimus. Both of these drugs are able to control itching and inflammation. These creams can only be used for a short time, as there is a risk that they may cause cancer.
How common is this condition?
Hand eczema is a fairly common condition in the developed world. An examination of numerous studies from the United States, Denmark, and other highly developed countries found that the one-year prevalence of the condition in the general population is about 10%, while the lifetime prevalence is 15%.
If you think you have hand eczema, see a dermatologist right away. Your dermatologist can offer treatments to manage your symptoms and keep your condition from getting worse.