Eczema is a common form of skin inflammation, also known as dermatitis. Sufferers firstly experience itchiness of the skin, which turns red from scratching and it may be followed by the appearance of small bumps and blisters. Hand eczema is no better or worse than eczema anywhere else on the body but because it is hard to conceal, it can make the sufferer feel very self conscious about showing their hands.
How does hand eczema appear?
The condition doesnt just affect the upper parts of the hands, but also the sides and tops of fingers, the palms and even the wrists. Both hands are usually affected at the same time. While hand eczema can be very unsightly, its not contagious. It can come from having hands constantly in water, exposure to irritants or be due to allergic reactions. For people who are afflicted with hand eczema, it can be very difficult to endure because even putting their hands in water can cause aggravation.
Hand eczema is an unfortunate occupational hazard for hairdressers, nurses and anyone else who is required to wash their hands frequently. Food handlers such as kitchen hands, butchers or bakers will wash their hands many times a day, as will people who work with greasy substances such as motor oil or grease. Wearing gloves for extended periods or in working environments that are very hot or very cold, can cause and/or exacerbate the condition.
Hairdressers are constantly required to work with wet hands, and to expose their hands to shampoos, conditioners and other chemical substances. For some people, the condition can become so significant that the only choice is to find an alternative job.
Hand eczema that becomes chronic can result in the skin thickening, flaking and scaling and there is a constant sensation of dryness.
Some people may experience hand eczema only, whereas for others, it may appear on other parts of the body too. Usually caused by irritants such as soaps or strong detergents, hand eczema can be difficult to treat if the sufferer must be exposed to these substances for work or in daily life. It can also be caused by allergies such as latex, of which gloves are commonly made.
Winter is prime time for hand eczema to appear and it usually begins as patchy, dry skin that may or may not be red. Low humidity and plummeting temperatures during winter mean that hands are subjected to dry, cold air, particularly in areas where the weather is not cold enough for gloves or mittens. Irritation is frequently found under rings because soaps and other irritants become trapped there.
How to treat hand eczema
Hand eczema can be tricky to manage because it doesnt affect every individual in the same way. It is often a case of trial and error as to how to get it under control and also to know what the aggravating circumstances or substances are.
If gloves are required for work, then cotton gloves can be worn underneath them for protection against the irritants that cause the hand eczema. Gloves can also be useful to protect the persons hands from exposure to irritants but if rubber or latex gloves cause problems, then an initial pair of cotton gloves underneath is advised.
Hand eczema sufferers will try various brands of soap or soap substitutes to relieve the symptoms. Products with a pH level similar to that of skin 5.5 are recommended. Perfumed soaps should be avoided. Moisturizing creams and lotions are helpful in alleviating the dryness and usually the greasier ointments are more successful.
Topical corticosteroids can be effective against hand eczema if prescribed and applied before the condition becomes too severe. They are to be applied frequently in an effort to keep the skin from becoming too dry, scaly and cracked. Tar based creams can assist in treating skin that has thickened and become scaly.
The most important aspect of treatment for hand eczema is trying to identify the cause/s of it. Once known, they can be avoided so that the condition is not able to become chronic. The old adage of prevention being better than cure is well heeded here.