Hand Eczema is the most frequent occupational skin disease. It is very common and prevalent in occupations that deal with the public and that require excessive hand washing such as healthcare workers, caregivers, restaurant workers and salon/spa workers to name a few. It also flares up in the general public in the colder drier months. It affects women twice as much as men. Symptoms often include dry, red, cracked, itchy skin on hands and fingers and in some extreme cases cracked and bleeding knuckles.
If you believe you may have hand eczema or occupational dermatitis you should visit your doctor for a proper diagnosis.
What Causes Hand Eczema?
Eczema can be hereditary, and it is believed that certain genes may cause some individuals to have more sensitive skin than others. Some scientists also believe that an overactive immune system can play a factor. Defects in the skins outer layer, known as the epidermis causes moisture to escape from skin, which then leaves the skin at risk of having germs enter through these crevices. Up to 70% of eczema suffers experience hand eczema. Frequent hand washing and over use of hand sanitizers also depletes the natural skin barrier and induces eczema flare-ups.
There are factors that can cause flare-ups including:
- Excessive hand washing
- Infrequent use of hand moisturizers
- Heat and sweat
- Cold, dry weather and dry indoor heating
- Compromised skin (breaks in epidermis layer caused from dry skin)
- Conditions affecting the immune system
- Baths or showers where the water is too hot
- Skincare products containing alcohol or perfumes
- Hand soaps and cleansers containing stripping sulfates or hand sanitizers containing alcohol or irritating antibacterial ingredients
Tips for managing hand eczema:
- Wash hands in warm, never hot water with a mild gentle cleanser
- Use antibacterial soap and hand sanitizers only when necessary
- Apply hand cream throughout the day, especially after hand washing to replenish moisture
- Wear gloves or mittens when going outdoors
- For severe dry, irritated and cracked hands, apply a rich cream or balm formula at night and wear cotton gloves