Hand eczema

Your hands are of great service to you every day. They work for and with you tirelessly. Eczema is a threat to your skin, which is meant to protect your hands against daily aggressors.

What is hand eczema?

In a way, the skin of the hands is a part of the body that sends a message—soft, rough, cold or clammy. It sometimes reveals something about the person that he/she would prefer not to, such as timidity or nervousness for instance. For people with hand eczema, a simple handshake or the sight of their hands can cause uneasiness—they may experience noticeable physical pain or wounded pride, whatever the case may be.

Eczema can be hindrance in several ways. There is the physical discomfort of course, but also the fear of being a bother or of being judged. Some individuals will even find it difficult to accomplish their usual activities due to the degree of impairment. Certain people who must deal with this daily reality experience embarrassment, loss of confidence or self-esteem, and withdrawal.

Chronic hand eczema is a common inflammation of the skin that is not contagious. Eczema can last for months, years, or appear in flare-ups. It affects approximately 5 to 10% of the population, women slightly more often than men.

Who is at risk?

Although hand eczema can affect anyone, some people are more at risk than others of suffering from it. Its occurrence is likely due to several factors, such as a hereditary predisposition combined with a lifestyle or environmental factors that promote its development.

Atopy is a genetic predisposition to atopic eczema, allergic rhinitis or allergic asthma. People who have this predisposition are three times more likely to have hand eczema than the average population, as they often suffer from a breakdown of the skin's protective barrier. Hand eczema can also be the manifestation of allergic contact dermatitis, which is part of the broad allergy family.

Some individuals are affected by a type of eczema called "contact eczema", which is particularly common in workers with occupations where skin is exposed to harsh conditions (hair dressers, cleaning staff, healthcare workers or people working in the food, gardening, metal, or construction industries, etc.). Prolonged and frequent expose to water and other liquids or irritating agents promote the onset of the problem. Therefore, appropriate skin care and the use of gloves are important prevention measures.

What are the symptoms of hand eczema?

The symptoms of hand eczema are many

  • dry skin
  • redness
  • itching
  • burning sensation
  • scaling (peeling of the skin)
  • chafing, fissures (or cracking) of the skin
  • oedema (swelling) of the skin
  • formation of vesicles, and
  • thickening of the skin

Manifestations are often bilateral; in other words, they can be observed on both hands.

How can hand eczema be prevented?

Hand eczema is a chronic skin condition that can be prevented by adopting certain hygiene practices and healthy habits. Here is some advice about prevention:

  • Quit smoking. Smoking predisposes you to eczema.
  • Avoid washing your hands too often. The lipid film that protects the surface of the skin must be preserved.
  • Do not use an irritating soap or product to wash the skin on your hands. Choose your cleansing product carefully, fragrance-free, gentle, and hypoallergenic. Cleansing formulations made for a baby's skin could, for instance, be an interesting option. Several cleansers are designed to meet the specific needs of problem skin. Your pharmacist can give you information on the subject.
  • When you dry your hands after washing, gently pat them dry using a clean cloth or towel. Do not rub them vigorously.
  • Hydrate your skin regularly. Use a quality, gentle, fragrance-free moisturizing product or emollient that is designed for people with eczema. Your pharmacist can recommend one that suits your needs.
  • If you have noticed that your hand eczema seems to be caused by an allergy or by contact with a given substance, avoid this allergen as much as possible.
  • If the nature of your work involves frequent handwashing or contact with irritating products, consider applying a protective cream (i.e. PREVEX) before and during work, or wearing gloves.
  • Choose vinyl gloves, which are less likely to cause allergies than latex or rubber gloves.
  • Consider wearing cotton gloves inside your work gloves.
  • In winter, protect your hands from the wind and cold. Wear gloves or mitts.

How can hand eczema be treated?

Prevention is key in dealing with hand eczema. However, preventive measures may be insufficient in overcoming the condition. In these cases, it may be necessary to use medication. The choice of a therapeutic approach will be based on the type and severity of eczema.

Several medications can be used to control hand eczema, including some that require a prescription, such as:

  • cortisone-based topical medications (lotion, ointment, or cream)
  • medication against itching
  • anti-inflammatory or immunomodulator topical medications, and
  • oral therapies (i.e. cortisone or immunomodulators) in the case of serious and chronic eczema.

Other treatments can also be considered, such as phototherapy (or light therapy).

When eczema lesions become infected, it may be necessary to use an antibiotic therapy.

If you suffer from hand eczema, your pharmacist can give you advice about what product to choose to cleanse, hydrate, and protect your skin. Because there are many products available at the pharmacy for this purpose, speak to your pharmacist to make the best choices. If you must use medication, whether topical or oral, ask your pharmacist to indicate the modes of action to be used, dosage, and the possible side effects. Seeking advice from pharmacists allows them to ensure optimal use of medication, which in turn promotes healing.

You need your hands and they need you! Treat them well and pay attention to the signs or symptoms of eczema. This will allow you to promptly use the above-mentioned measures to help your skin recover its softness, elasticity, and beauty!

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Hand eczema

Your hands are of great service to you every day. They work for and with you tirelessly. Eczema is a threat to your skin, which is meant to protect your hands against daily aggressors.
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