Eczema is a common skin condition that affects most areas of the body. Due to the high number of eczema types, it can be difficult to tell them apart.
One area of the body that is often subject to eczema flareups is your hand. Since this body part gets exposed to all sorts of chemicals and substances, it should not come as a surprise that millions of people visit the dermatology clinic to treat hand eczema.
We should note that eczema is the unformal term used to describe a whole range of dermatitis symptoms. In reality, there are many types of dermatitis that affect the hands. Only your doctor could tell them apart to prescribe appropriate treatment.
In this article, we will cover a specific area of the body that is often affected by eczema. We will also discuss some of the ways you can treat eczema on your hands.
What causes eczema of the hands?
Hand eczema develops in people with an overreactive immune system. Once you touch a surface that irritates the skin, your immune cells release proinflammatory cytokines that cause redness and itchiness.
Unfortunately, researchers have yet to identify the exact triggers of hand eczema. So far, all we know is that it’s the result of genetic predisposition and environmental factors.
Here are some of these causes:
Chemicals and irritants
Working with detergents, soaps, cement increases your risk of developing eczema of the hands. In fact, hairdressers, caterers, construction workers, and engineers are among the most common people to visit the doctor’s office for hand eczema.
Similar to other dermatological illnesses, stress is a major trigger of eczema of the hands. By dysregulating the function of your immune system, inflammation occurs.
Interestingly, a specific type of eczema known as dyshidrotic dermatitis is more likely to develop because of stress.
Excessive sweating irritates the skin by releasing an array of minerals (e.g., sodium, lead, magnesium, nickel). While this response is physiological and necessary, it may lead to undesirable side effects when the sweat does not dry properly.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), an agent that irritates the skin can cause eczema flareups. Therefore, individuals who wash their hands very frequently and dry them afterward are prone to eczema of the hands.
Eczema of the hands shares the concept of atopy with other autoimmune diseases. Therefore, if you have a food allergy, you are susceptible to developing eczema on your hands.
Cold temperatures and dehydration
Abrupt changes in temperature may dehydrate the skin, which is another trigger of eczema flareups.
What are the signs and symptoms of hand eczema?
The signs and symptoms of hand eczema vary from one person to another. Depending on your age, lifestyle, treatment status, and medical history, you may experience completely different symptoms from individuals with the same illness.
Here are the common signs and symptoms of hand eczema:
- Inflammation of the skin
- Red or dark patches
In a 2016 study, researchers found that people who have hand eczema are more likely to develop skin infections. The cause of this predisposition boils down to the lack of a protein known as filaggrin, which protects the skin.
How can you treat eczema on your hands?
Despite ongoing research, there is no cure for hand eczema yet. The best thing we can do is to control symptoms by prescribing medications and other therapeutic interventions.
The following sections will cover the different treatments that your doctor may recommend for eczema treatments:
Topical corticosteroids are some of the most commonly prescribed medications for hand eczema. However, these drugs are very potent, which is why you need to follow the instructions given by your doctor carefully.
With that said, topical steroids may cause a few side effects, including skin thinning in the area of application. If this happens to you, contact your doctor to see whether it’s appropriate to discontinue the treatment.
While calcineurin inhibitors may not be as potent as corticosteroids, they are still beneficial for hand eczema. Moreover, the fact that they do not cause skin thinning makes them an appealing option for patients.
Alitretinoin is a medication that belongs to the retinoid family. As a derivative of vitamin A, alitretinoin can be very helpful in treating severe forms of hand eczema.
Your doctor may prescribe this treatment if you fail to respond to conventional therapies for eczema. You may need to take this medication for up to 6 months.
Antibiotics applied directly to your hands can help with treating open fissures and infections. Before applying antibiotics, make sure to consult with your doctor since these medications can be responsible for triggering contact and atopic dermatitis.
Antihistamines are very effective in controlling the itch that accompanies hand dermatitis. However, first-generation antihistamines can cause drowsiness and impaired coordination.
For this reason, it might be best to take them just before bed.
Ultraviolet (UV) therapy
UV therapy might be helpful in moderate cases of hand eczema. This treatment is used in children and adults.
Exposing the skin to UVA and UVB dampens the inflammation and reduces itchiness. In most cases, patients need to undergo this therapy at least once a month to improve their symptoms during a flareup.
Hand eczema is a quite common type of dermatitis that affects the palms of the hand and could lead to redness, itchiness, and even bleeding. Continuous monitoring and treatment of this condition can dramatically improve the patient’s quality of life.
We hope that this article helped you appreciate the impact, causes, and treatments of eczema on hands. Just make sure to speak with your dermatologist for tailored medical advice.
If you have any questions about eczema on your hands, feel free to drop them in the comment section. You can also check our other posts about eczema by clicking on this link.
Written by Zac Hyde M.D.