Signs of Hand Eczema/Dermatitis


I am 34 years old with two small children, a husband, and hands that are red, scaly, and cracked. My hands are at a point where even water causes a burning sensation, and moisturizers do not help. I am desperate for some type of relief. Why is this happening to me? I have friends with similar life situations, and their hands are fine!


You have a common skin problem called Hand Eczema (Hand Dermatitis). It is usually chronic with remissions and recurrences and is characterized by a red, scaly, itchy rash on the palms, back of the hands, and the fingers. Hand Eczema usually results from a combination of irritants and, at times, allergic substances that come in contact with the skin. Everyone routinely touches soaps, detergents, raw foods, fruits, and home cleaning agents around the house, as well as the chemicals, inks, adhesives, solvents, and other products in the work place.

As you can see, our hands take a beating; but not everyone gets Hand Eczema. Many people have “tough” skin, and their exposure time to irritants is minimized. Unfortunately, many people have “sensitive” skin, and contact with irritating agents is abusive. We can’t make one’s skin tougher, but there are ways to protect the skin and to treat Hand Eczema. Physical protection when possible is essential. Wear gloves (latex, vinyl, or plastic) to avoid contact with detergents, scouring powders, solvents, bleach, raw foods, fresh lemons, fresh fruits, onions, etc. It is important to have more than one set of gloves and to avoid the hands sweating inside the gloves. Use gloves that are lined or use thin, cotton liner gloves to wear underneath the heavier, protective gloves. Abuse your gloves, not your hands!

The most important part of treatment is protection and prevention. However, when Hand Eczema appears, apply a cortisone cream (over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream, 1 percent) several times a day. Apply a small amount of medicine to the rash, and massage it in well. If the skin is still dry, you may apply plain white petrolatum (Vaseline) or other non-medicated hand cream. When your rash is better, you can use the medicine less often.

You should apply a hand cream several times a day to prevent dry skin on the hands. Pamper your hands for several months after healing. It takes 2-3 months for the skin to totally recover. Hand Eczema is chronic and stubborn, and not treating the symptoms creates frequent recurrences. Pamper your hands with protection and immediate treatment with recurrences. If your Hand Eczema does not respond to these recommendations, evaluation by a dermatologist and prescription medications are recommended.

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