Hand dermatitis, otherwise known as hand eczema, is a condition that initially causes the skin to crack, become red and dry, then later progress to bumps and watery blisters. These usually occur in clusters, and appear on the palms and sides of the fingers. Occasionally, these can also affect the soles of the feet. These blisters are very itchy and sometimes, even painful. They may recur frequently, lasting for about three weeks each time.
Although the exact cause for hand eczema has not been identified, it may be brought about by a combination of different factors. These include:
- Sensitive skin
- Allergic reactions, which is sometimes called contact urticaria.
- Exposure to irritants, which commonly come from occupation hazards from cleaning, hairdressing, healthcare, and mechanical work.
- Genetic factors, such as a family history of allergic asthma called atopy. Atopic patients have greater risks of developing hand eczema than normal patients do.
Hand eczema can be treated in various ways, depending on its causes and severity. These include the following:
- Witch hazel
- Toxin injections
- Cold compresses
- Antihistamine medications
- Cortisone creams or tablets
- Immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory drugs
Although it may take some time, hand eczema can usually be treated successfully. If your condition continues for more than a few months at a time, it is a good idea to contact your doctor immediately to receive treatment or a diagnosis of an underlying condition.
How to Protect Your Hands
Protecting your hands is your first line of defense against developing hand eczema. The following preventive measures can help you avoid developing dermatitis:
- Use moisturizers regularly, especially when your environment is cold and dry.
- Stay away from any line of work that gets your hands excessively wet or in contact with irritants.
- Try washing your hands with lukewarm water and hand-washing oils or soap-free detergents.
- Use alcohol instead of fully washing your hands to clean them, especially if you work in the healthcare industry.
- Never wear rings while doing housework, or any other kind of work. Make sure to brush your rings under running water so they are clean, especially in areas where they come into contact with your skin.
- Wear vinyl gloves when working to protect your hands. Take care not to wear these for too long, or your hands will start producing sweat, which can also trigger dermatitis. Wearing cotton gloves underneath the vinyl can also help prevent further damage.
- Do not come into direct contact with harsh chemicals from cleaning products, as well as from metal salts like nickel and chromium. Other substances to avoid include citrus fruits, car oil, wire wool, fiberglass, cement, paint, plasterboard, hair products, and all kinds of polish and solvents.
- Make sure your gloves are always clean, especially on the inside. Turn them inside out and rinse them under warm water, and replace them after every few weeks or so. If you use them for industrial purposes, more frequent replacements are advisable. Take off your gloves immediately after use to avoid sweating, and make sure water does not enter them while you are working.
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