How to Tell If Your Hands Suffer From Eczema and What to Do About It
If you are reading this, chances are you are suffering from red, itchy skin on your hands, which could be an indication of a minor skin irritation. However, if you’ve suffered from these conditions over a period of time, then you may have eczema dermatitis. Perhaps you’ve even tried numerous over-the –counter medications, prescribed by your doctor, to no avail.
If you have, or suspect that you may have eczema, you’re not alone. In the United States, eczema affects about 10-20% of infants and 3% of adults. Over 350 million people worldwide, struggle with symptoms associated with dry, scaly, burning hands.
Skin irritations and rashes can greatly take the enjoyment out of life, but it doesn’t have to. Acquiring knowledge about eczema and exactly what it is, how to recognize such skin conditions and possible treatments will get you on the path to relief.
What Is Eczema?
There are various types of eczema, with atopic, contact and dyshidrotic being the most common forms. Eczema refers to a variety of medical conditions, which causes the skin to become uncomfortable. Such symptoms include redness, dryness, hardening of the skin, darkening, roughness, and even swelling. Though eczema most often forms on children, adults can suffer as well. Most eczema forms in childhood and usually goes away during adulthood, but sufferers for eczema tend to also show signs of other symptoms, such as hay fever or asthma. It is important to know the differences of the forms of eczema to receive the most ideal treatment.
The most common form of eczema is atopic, which is signified by breakouts that begin on the face, eventually showing up on the rest of the body. Though the condition tends to be hereditary, this does not mean that it is always passed from parent to child. In many cases, those with atopic eczema find that symptoms improve by puberty. However, those with severe eczema tend to carry the disease into adulthood.
Most affected areas of the body include the neck, back of the knees, hands and fingers. Though flare-ups will usually come and go, skin will often remain dry and itchy. Spontaneous skin flare-ups are often made worse by using specific products such as soaps, detergents, and fragrances and by using certain material, such as wool of clothing made of synthetic fibers. Environmental factors, such as changes in temperature, dry climate and excessive humidity can also trigger skin irritations.
How to Treat Atopic Dermatitis
Making sure to use a moisturizer day and night is key, for alleviating sensitive, dry skin. Choose a moisturizer that doesn’t contain fragrance or harsh ingredients, but with added vitamin E and D to help improve the skin’s condition. Another common treatment is the use of corticosteroids, a topical hormone that comes in the form of creams, gels and ointments. The use of these hormones can help reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system.
Though it is thought that finding relief for dermatitis, such as taking a hot shower or bath is best, this method will actually escalate pain and irritation. It is possible to treat atopic eczema at home with the use of homemade remedies. However, it will take some trial and error to find the perfect customized solution. You may also find that local organic healthy stores are your best bet as the consultants are very knowledgeable about products.
Contact eczema (dermatitis) is the most common physical labor-related skin disease that occurs after the skin has come in contact with irritants. There are two forms of contact eczema: irritant contact eczema and allergic contact dermatitis. Irritant contact eczema occurs during the skin’s reaction to an irritant, such as soap, bleach, hair products and other manufactured chemicals, often starting at the hands and face, spreading to other parts of the body through touch.
Allergic contact dermatitis is brought on by allergic reactions and is less common than irritant contact eczema. Allergic contact dermatitis is caused by the development of an allergy to a specific chemical. Prolonged and consistent exposure to a chemical can cause such allergy. Once allergy is developed, the body’s chemistry retaliates with a biological reaction when in contact with the skin. Reactions are most commonly found on the hands.
Hand eczema, or hand dermatitis, is a form of contact dermatitis, predominantly affecting the hands. Extensive use of hands, in work and leisure, especially outdoors can exacerbate symptoms. Extensive hand washing and cleaning can also cause irritation.
Those with hand eczema can also be allergic to Nickel, an element often found in jewelry, perfumes, zippers or preservatives commonly found in cosmetics.
How to Recognize (Allergic) Contact Dermatitis
Signs of contact dermatitis usually include mildly dry or red-pigmented skin. In some severe cases, the skin can take on the appearance of being burned. Rashes formed with this type of skin condition can fill with pus and cause pain. Other symptoms, such as blistering, swelling, open sores and cracking skin can also occur.
How to Treat (Allergic) Contact Dermatitis
If your doctor suspects that you may be allergic, a referral to an allergy specialist will prove helpful in determining the cause of your dermatitis. During the specialist visit, a ‘patch test’, will be performed, in which a small area of skin is exposed to many allergens. This will help to determine what the cause of your contact dermatitis is so that you can avoid it in the future.
Excessive scratching can make eczema worse and can even cause a skin infection. It is best to clean your skin with lukewarm water and to avoid harsh soaps. Consider an anti-itch cream, like calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream, which can be found at most drugstores. If these are ineffective, your doctor or allergy specialist can prescribe a heavier medical cream or gel.
Dyshidrotic or dyshidrotic eczema is a skin condition that causes blisters to develop on the feet and hands. The condition is twice as common in women than in men and is induced by stress or allergens. If itching and blisters do occur, it normally lasts about two weeks to a month.
Those with higher levels of stress are at an increased risk of developing the condition. Dyshidrotic dermatitis can also be caused by exposure to moisture and metal salts, such as nickel.
How to Recognize Dyshidrotic Eczema
Dyshidrotic eczema is often recognized by small blisters, which usually sit quite deep under the skin often appearing on the hands and fingers as well as the soles of the feet and toes. Flakiness, redness, painful, scaly skin also are indicators of the condition. Dyshidrotic dermatitis can cause the skin to appear dry and can lead to cracking.
Dyshidrotic eczema is sometimes caused by not wearing the right protection when outside or exposed to harsh conditions. Wearing protective white cotton gloves underneath your regular gloves is helpful, as the added benefit of keeping moisture on the skin alleviates symptoms.
How to Treat Dyshidrotic Eczema
As with other types of eczema, dyshidrotic eczema is often treatable with topical steroids and cold compresses. For those with severe eczema, corticosteroid pills and injections are available, when prescribed by a doctor. Other alternative therapies include skin-drainage and UV-treatments, which are ideal when other options have failed. UV treatments, also known as phototherapy or light therapy, is an alternative that can help reduce itchiness and inflammation associated with eczema, while increasing vitamin D production and boosting the immune system.
How to Prevent Hand Eczema
For those who have previously experienced the symptoms of eczema and/or are at high risk, there are a number of ways to take preventative measures. Try these useful tips to keep your skin soft and comfortable all year long.
- Know your triggers. “Frangrance is a big nono for eczema patients,” says Andrea Cambio, medical director of Cambio Dermatology. Instead, try to find unscented, mild products specifically targeted towards sensitive skin. Triggers may include scented soaps or dust mites, so it is important to eliminate all products that could aggravate the skin and to prevent flare-ups.
- Manage the temperature. An air conditioner is no luxury for eczema suffers. If it is hot and humid outside, the inside of your home needs to be cool. During the colder seasons, a cool mist humidifier can help keep skin moisturized while at home.
- Moisturize often. Moisturizing is often the best eczema treatment, so it’s always important to keep a lotion or cream on hand. Take the time to moisturize problem areas, such as your hands and feet as much as possible. Avoid moisturizers that contain too many additives to prevent irritating the skin even further.
- Avoid Sweating. Sweating can cause flare-ups, so it’s important to keep it to a minimum. Take a shower immediately after working out and always make sure to wear workout clothing that efficiently soaks up the sweat, instead of trapping it on your skin.
- Watch your stress levels. Stress can bring about itching and other irritations to the skin. Try to reduce stress by doing yoga exercises and going for walks. Stress can also be greatly reduced by meditating.
- Protect your hands. It is important to wear cotton gloves under work attire and to wear rubber gloves during activities, such as washing the dishes. For even more protection, cotton gloves can be worn under rubber ones. When it’s cold outside, leather gloves are an ideal option to keep skin from drying out. Avoid gloves made of wool, as they can cause skin irritation.
- Avoid processed foods. Processed foods can worsen eczema symptoms, so it’s important to eat foods that will keep skin healthy and calm. Cobalt and nickel have also proven to cause flare-ups, as well.
Eczema symptoms are difficult to pinpoint but these tips will help make them more manageable. Consult with a specialist in the case of reoccurring symptoms. There is no cure for eczema but with the right treatment, it’s very manageable. Good luck!