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What Causes Eczema On Your Hands And How To Treat It
04/07/20238 min read
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.
Table Of Contents
- What Is Eczema?
- What Causes Eczema On Hands?
- Types Of Eczema On Hands
- Treatment For Eczema On Your Hands
- When To See A Doctor For Hand Eczema
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 31.6 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. Small blisters are also a possible symptom.
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.
People with eczema don’t typically experience symptoms all the time. Instead, they seem to come and go.
If your hands have been better for a while and your symptoms suddenly reappear, it could be an eczema flare-up.
Just because you have red, itchy skin on your hands, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re dealing with eczema. Other conditions cause similar symptoms.
Here are a few of the most common eczema look-alikes:
- Psoriasis: This skin disorder causes thick, scaly patches of skin. It can appear anywhere on your body, including your hands.
- Stress rash: If you’ve been under a lot of stress and suddenly notice clusters of itchy red dots on your hands, face, chest, or hands, it could be a stress rash.
- Ringworm: Do you have dry skin and deep cracks on your palm? If you notice these symptoms along with ring-shaped patches on the back of your hand, you could have a fungal infection called ringworm.
- Dry skin: While dry skin is a symptom of eczema, not everyone with dry skin has eczema. Dry skin on your hands is often caused by cold, dry weather or washing your hands frequently.
- Scabies: If your red patches are worse between your fingers and you have an itch that’s worse at night, you could be dealing with scabies. These are mites that burrow into your skin.
If you’re not sure what is causing your skin trouble, schedule a consultation with a medical professional for a proper diagnosis. Then, you can treat it appropriately.
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
- 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 some 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.
If you do need to wash your hands frequently, here are some tips to keep them from getting too dry:
- Wash in lukewarm water instead of letting the water get hot
- Gently dry your hands, but leave some of the water on them
- Apply moisturizer to your entire hand, including your fingertips
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 keep your skin protected and 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.
The National Eczema Association recommends keeping your showers or baths to 10-15 minutes. Any longer and you risk drying your skin out too much.
It's also important to use gentle cleansers when you have eczema on your hands. Harsh soaps can further irritate your skin, so look for cleaners with gentle plant-based ingredients and no fragrances to keep your skin looking its best.
When you get out of the shower, pat yourself dry with a soft towel instead of scrubbing. Then, while still slightly damp, apply moisturizer to seal in the water.
Take Your Rings Off
Remove any rings first whenever you shower, bathe, or wash your hands. Otherwise, you risk getting soap underneath the band and causing further irritation.
In addition, if your ring is made from nickel or other inexpensive metals, it could worsen your eczema. If you notice symptoms underneath your jewelry, try removing it for a while to see if your skin improves.
If your rings are causing trouble, consider replacing them with silicone versions. This material is hypoallergenic, so fewer people react to it.
Use A Humidifier
When the air is dry, your skin can become very itchy and uncomfortable. To deal with this issue, use a humidifier to put more moisture into the air. This will help keep your hands from getting too dry, reducing eczema symptoms.
However, if you make your home too humid, you may end up with mold and other issues. To prevent that, keep your inside humidity levels between 30-50%. A hydrometer can help you monitor the moisture levels in your home to ensure it doesn’t get too low or too high.
Examine Your Diet
Your skin needs nourishing food to thrive. So one way to help clear up your eczema is to reduce your intake of processed foods and increase your consumption of healthy, whole foods.
Eating a diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables can help you get the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants your skin needs to be clear and healthy. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and flaxseed oil can help reduce inflammation.
It’s also important to drink plenty of water. This can help hydrate your body from the inside. Aim for eight glasses of water each day.
If you have trouble drinking that much, try adding lemon slices or a few berries to your cup. This fruit-infused water often tastes better, so drinking plenty is more manageable.
You might also consider cutting out food allergens, like dairy, gluten, eggs, and soy, to see if that affects your symptoms. However, before starting an elimination diet, it’s a good idea to speak to your doctor. They can make sure you’re still getting the nutrients you need.
While this one may seem a bit extreme, it’s sometimes necessary. Some professions require tasks that bring you into contact with irritants. Occupations that might be a problem include:
- Metal work
- Floral designing
- Mechanical work
If you’re in one of these fields, apply moisturizer before you start your shift and wear gloves when touching harsh chemicals. You can also talk to your manager about your eczema and see if any accommodations can be made.
And if your career is frequently causing problems with your hands — or if your eczema makes your job harder to do — changing fields might be best for your long-term health.
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.
Here are some other simple ways to relieve stress:
- Taking a walk
- Getting a massage
- Listening to music
- Using positive affirmations
- Talking to a friend or loved one
Use Wet Wraps
Wet wraps can help you add more moisture to your skin. This treatment typically involves dampening cloth bandages and placing them over your eczema patches. Then, you cover the wet ones with dry bandages.
However, your hands are a difficult body part to wrap with bandages. An alternative solution is to get a pair of cotton gloves damp and put them on. Then, cover them with plastic wrap to keep the water from getting all over everything.
It’s best to do this treatment before bed. That way, you can sleep in the gloves and let the water soak into your hands all night long.
Try Home Remedies
Over the years, people have developed many home remedies for treating eczema on their hands. Let’s look at a few of the most effective.
This plant has properties that can help relieve your eczema symptoms. If you have a potted aloe vera plant at home, break open a few leaves and apply the gel directly to your skin.
You can also buy bottled aloe vera gel from your local pharmacy or health food store. Just make sure it’s 100% pure for the best results.
The properties of honey can help promote healing (if you’re not allergic to it). Simply apply a tiny bit and let it soak into your skin for a few minutes before washing it off.
Oats are great for your skin! Enjoy a short soak in an oatmeal bath to help reduce inflammation. While you can use plain old-fashioned oatmeal, taking a few minutes to create colloidal oatmeal will work even better.
Simply place a cup of oats into a blender and blend into a fine powder. Then, add the powder to your bath and soak for around 10 minutes.
This oil is a great moisturizer that can help soothe and hydrate your skin. Just mix a few drops of almond oil with coconut oil and apply the mixture to your hands before bed every night.
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.
Look for a thick and creamy moisturizer, like our Eczema Daily Calming Cream with colloidal oatmeal. It should also be fragrance-free to avoid potential irritation.
To remind yourself to moisturize every time you wash your hands, keep a bottle near every sink. In addition, pick up some Eczema Daily Calming Cream: On-the-Go.
These travel-size bottles contain the same powerful ingredients as the full-size version and are easy to slip into your purse or bag. That way, you’re never without moisturizer.
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.
And if you don’t like the idea of getting emollient all over your sheets, simply pull on a pair of cotton gloves after applying. The gloves will hold the product on your skin and protect your bedding from grease stains.
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. Always read the directions and use them as indicated. You don’t want to apply too much.
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 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 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. Your doctor will work with you to determine the best treatment plan for your skin.
When To See A Doctor For Hand Eczema
You may be able to treat your eczema on your own using the above tips. But if your symptoms persist or worsen, it’s important to seek professional help.
Talk to your doctor if you experience any of the following:
- Severe redness and swelling
- Intense itching that doesn’t go away
- Deep cracks in the skin
- Weeping blisters on the hands or wrists
- Signs of infection
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.
American Academy of Dermatology Association Harvard Health Publishing National Eczema Association