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Having eczema on your hands can be frustrating and painful. The itchy, cracked, dry skin can make you want to cover up or may even cause pain as you go about your daily tasks.
To help you take charge of your skin and find relief, we’ve put together this guide to answer all of your questions about eczema on your hands.
What Is Eczema?
Eczema is a general term for a group of inflammatory skin conditions. Atopic dermatitis, the most common form of eczema, affects over 16 million Americans.
While hands are a common site for eczema, this condition can also appear on your face, neck, and other body parts. No matter where it is, it can cause intense itching and discomfort.
Eczema often appears as patches of red, itchy skin. Your skin may also be dry, cracked, or scaly. In severe cases, skin can even bleed or become infected.
Since your skin is unique, your eczema may look different from someone else’s. You may have mild symptoms with a single patch of dry skin on the back of one hand, while another person may have severe eczema with multiple patches of cracked, bleeding skin.
People with eczema may also have other conditions, like hay fever or asthma, and are more likely to develop other allergic diseases.
What Causes Eczema On Hands?
There isn’t a single cause of eczema. Instead, experts think it results from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Some people are simply predisposed to eczema. If so, your skin may be less able to protect itself from irritants or allergens.
In terms of environmental factors that can cause eczema, some of the most common triggers include:
- Dry skin
- Sudden temperature changes
While you may never know exactly what causes your eczema, there are ways to manage the condition and find relief from symptoms. But first, you need to know what type of eczema you have on your hands.
Types Of Eczema On Hands
As we mentioned, atopic dermatitis is the most common form of eczema. But other types can affect your hands, too. Let's look at a few of them.
Irritant Contact Dermatitis
When your skin comes into contact with an irritant, it can become red, itchy, and dry. This is called irritant contact dermatitis.
Common irritants that can cause this type of eczema include:
- Dishwashing liquid
- Cleaning products
- Laundry detergent
This form of eczema is more common in people who have a job that involves contact with these irritants, such as healthcare workers or housekeepers. But anyone can develop this type of eczema if they frequently use harsh chemicals without protecting their skin.
Allergic Contact Dermatitis
If you touch something you’re allergic to, your skin can react similarly to coming into contact with an irritant. This is called allergic contact dermatitis.
Common allergens that cause this type of eczema include:
If you suspect an allergy is causing eczema on your hands, you may need to have an allergy test to determine which substance is the culprit. Once you know, you can avoid contact with that allergen to prevent future reactions.
While other forms of eczema can cause red, scaly patches, dyshidrotic eczema presents differently. With this type of eczema, you’ll have small, itchy blisters on your hands. You may also notice them on the soles of your feet.
These blisters often pop up in clusters on your skin. They can be clear, yellow, or brown. Your blisters may also be filled with pus.
This form of eczema is more common in women and people who have a history of allergies.
Treatment For Eczema On Your Hands
Eczema is a chronic condition, which means there is no cure. However, some nonpharmacologic and pharmacologic treatments can help you manage your symptoms and avoid flare-ups.
Sometimes, you'll notice an improvement in your eczema symptoms simply by making certain lifestyle changes. Here are a few of the most effective.
Wash Your Hands Less Often
If your hands are dry and irritated, you may be tempted to wash them more often. However, this can make your eczema worse. Overwashing can strip your skin of its natural oils, making it more vulnerable to irritation.
Rubber or nitrile gloves can help protect your hands from irritants. But you don't have to walk around with them on all the time. Instead, put on a pair when working with water or harsh chemicals to help your skin stay hydrated.
If you've narrowed down what triggers your eczema to flare, try to avoid those irritants as much as possible. Opt for products that are gentle instead of those that contain harsh chemicals.
If you can't avoid the irritant, take steps to protect your skin when you come into contact with it. For example, if you're allergic to pollen, wear a hat and long sleeves when you go outside.
Change Your Shower Routine
Hot water and long showers can strip your skin of its natural oils, making eczema symptoms worse. To avoid this, take shorter showers with lukewarm water.
It's also important to use gentle cleansers when you have eczema on your hands, such as Bodewell Sensitive Skin Moisturizing Body Wash. Harsh soaps can further irritate your skin.
Stress can worsen eczema symptoms, so it's essential to find ways to relax.
If you're feeling stressed or anxious, try taking deep breaths or doing some relaxation exercises. You may also want to consider talking to a therapist to help you overcome chronic stress.
You can buy many products over the counter to treat eczema. Three standard treatments are moisturizers, emollients, and topical steroids. Let's look at each one more closely.
Moisturizers are a vital part of any eczema treatment plan. They help keep your skin hydrated and prevent it from drying out.
Emollients are a type of moisturizer, but they're usually oil-based. This makes them more effective at trapping moisture in your skin.
However, since these products are oil-based, they tend to feel greasy. This texture can cause problems if you’re trying to work with your hands. To avoid trouble, consider applying it at night instead of during the day.
Topical steroids are a type of medication that you apply to your skin. They come in the form of creams, ointments, or gels and help reduce inflammation and itching.
You can buy some topical steroids over the counter, but stronger ones require a prescription.
If over-the-counter treatment options aren't making enough of a difference, a dermatologist may prescribe a stronger medication to treat the eczema on your hands.
Stronger Topical Steroids
Prescription-strength topical steroids are more potent than the products you can buy at the store. Because they’re stronger, they’re often more effective at reducing inflammation.
In some cases, your dermatologist may also prescribe oral steroids. These are typically only used for short periods because of potential side effects.
An overactive immune system can cause eczema flare-ups. So, one type of medication that's sometimes used to manage eczema is an immunosuppressant. This type of drug suppresses your immune system, which can help reduce inflammation.
However, immunosuppressants can have serious side effects, so they're usually only prescribed when other treatment options haven't worked.
Biologic drugs are a newer type of medication sometimes used to treat eczema. They work by targeting specific proteins in your immune system involved in inflammation.
Like immunosuppressants, biological drugs can have major side effects and are usually only prescribed when absolutely necessary.
If your eczema patches become infected, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to help clear up the infection and relieve your symptoms.
Phototherapy is a type of treatment that uses ultraviolet (UV) light to help relieve eczema symptoms. This treatment is done in a dermatologist's office so a professional can monitor your exposure to UV light.
Phototherapy is usually done three times a week for several weeks or months.
Eczema Doesn’t Have To Slow You Down
Living with eczema on your hands can be difficult, but you aren’t destined for a miserable life with cracked, bleeding skin. There are a variety of treatment options available to help relieve your symptoms.
Switching to self-care products designed for sensitive skin can make a big difference. For example, in a study, 97% of consumers agreed that Bodewell Eczema Daily Calming Cream helped their skin feel better after four weeks of use.
This means more good skin days are possible, even if you have eczema on your hands. Don’t give up! Keep trying, and you’ll soon find treatment options that work for your unique skin.