How to Treat Eczema on Hands: 6 Best Treatment Options

Eczema is a very commonly occurring skin condition that requires medical attention.

Another common name for eczema is Dermatitis1 which means inflammation of the skin. Eczema is a common skin condition that is usually associated with redness, itchy skin, dry skin, cracked skin, and other groups of signs and symptoms.

The symptoms of eczema may vary from person to person and depend highly on the stage of eczema and the causative factor. Eczema can occur at any part of the body but is most commonly encountered on the hands, feet, and back of the neck.

Eczema on hand skin is also called Hand Dermatitis.2

1. What Causes Eczema on the Hands?

In simple words, Eczema is an allergic reaction.

A person suffering from hand eczema has a poor skin lipid layer, which helps retain the skin’s water and moisture. This layer helps prevent the drying out of the skin on the hands and keeps it moist.

A person who has eczema on the hands suffers from a poor skin lipid layer and an increased loss of water from the transdermal layer of the skin. Hand eczema can also be caused due to contact with certain substances like chilly oil, soaps, and certain substances.

This is known as contact dermatitis and is a widespread phenomenon many household workers face.

2. Hand Eczema and Types of Eczema

It may be an elementary allergic reaction that tends to be ignored by everyone, but when it gets flared up, it can cause serious harm to the skin.

Also, the simple-looking skin reaction has many types, and differentiating it from the others is necessary to find the best and most effective treatment.

2.1. Types of Eczema 

2.1.1. Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic Dermatitis is a common form of hand eczema. It is a chronic condition characterized by recurrent eczema flare-ups and remissions. Atopic Dermatitis3 commonly occurs in the first year of life or before the first 5 years of life.

Various types of atopic Dermatitis are:

  • Infantile Atopic Dermatitis
  • Childhood Atopic Dermatitis
  • Adult Topic Dermatitis

2.1.2. Irritant Contact Dermatitis

Irritant contact dermatitis is caused when the skin on the hand comes in contact with a specific substance that irritates the skin.

This type of eczema belongs to the group of exogenous eczema4, meaning that the causative factor is present outside the body, and the body’s immune system does not initiate the reaction.

Some common irritants include:

A close-up of a hand with foam after using foam.
Photo by Matthew Tkocz on Unsplash Copyrights 2017
  • Soaps
  • Detergents
  • Certain plants
  • Fruit juices
  • Chilly oil
  • Bleaching products

2.1.3. Dyshidrotic Eczema

It is also known as Pompholyx eczema5.

Dyshidrotic eczema is the sudden appearance of skin rash along with itchy blisters on the palms or fingers. Sometimes the pain may also be associated with the appearance of eczema on the hands.

This type of eczema is commonly associated with hay fever.

The blisters may also be wet in some cases and are watery blisters. They are caused when the hand comes in frequent contact with water while washing clothes or utensils or doing any household chores.

2.1.4. Allergic Contact Dermatitis

Allergic contact dermatitis occurs when the hands or skin comes in contact with a specific substance that causes an allergic reaction.

The skin is usually sensitized toward that particular substance.

The most common allergen is grass which causes a mild reaction when contacted. To avoid this condition, one must be careful while playing and should be aware of the allergen that causes it.

2.1.5. Other Forms of Eczema 

  • Nummular Eczema
  • Diaper Dermatitis
  • Seborrheic Dermatitis
  • Asteatotic Eczema
  • Stasis Dermatitis
  • Infectious Eczematoid Dermatitis
  • Juvenile Plantar Dermatitis

3. Symptoms of Hand Eczema

The general symptoms of hand eczema 6are:

3.1. Blister

The occurrence of small blisters is a classic sign of eczema on hand and is commonly found in almost every type of eczema.

They may vary in size but are usually small and could be dry or watery.

They are usually spread over a small area and are associated with itch and sometimes may also ooze out due to infection secondary to eczema.

3.2. Skin Infections

It is widespread and occurs secondary to eczema.

The common skin symptoms of hand eczema are: 

  • Dry skin over the palm and around the fingers
  • Itching around the blisters is very common and can be very disturbing
  • Chapped skin is usually caused when eczema on the hand subsides

A secondary bacterial infection usually occurs and requires a strict treatment plan to be followed to prevent it from developing chronic hand dermatitis. Inflamed skin is another common symptom of hand eczema.

3.3. Itch

The irresistible itch is a classical feature of eczema on hand. It may be a never-ending phenomenon and can worsen the condition.

Acute eczema triggers itching over the affected area.

3.4. Patches on Skin

It is widespread to find patches on the skin which are usually pigmented. They may present in different colors depending upon the stage of eczema.

  • Early-stage – Red
  • Late-stage – Brown to dark brown
  • In stages of remission, the patch is usually white to normal skin color.

3.5. Other Symptoms

  • Painful hands
  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Multiple rashes on the entire body

If such symptoms are noticed, immediately contact the registered dermatologist who can provide medical advice.

4. Treatment of Eczema on Hand

Generally, eczema on hand has a medical history with periods of eczema flare-up and remission.

It is usually hereditary and can be found in first-degree relatives. Referring to a dermatologist is a must in cases of severe eczema on hand as it may lead to other complications like chronic Dermatitis or secondary infections to the damaged skin.

In acute cases, eczema can be treated with over-the-counter medicines.

The possible treatment options and measures to treat and avoid or control eczema on hand are:

4.1. Using Skin Barriers

A Skin Barrier is defined as any object or substance that helps avoid the contact of the skin, the allergen, or the irritant.

It is cost-effective, easily available, easy to use, and does not require any medical attention. It is a preventive method rather than a treatment and can be easily used with proper education.

These barriers include:

4.1.1. Gloves

A view of hands wearing blue gloves for safety.
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash Copyrights 2020

Wearing gloves is a very effective and safe preventive measure to avoid eczema on hand.

It can be easily accessed and used when needed. Being handy and cost-effective makes it a go-to option when needed. It may take time for some people to get used to working with gloves, but they shall adapt to this very soon.

Gloves should be worn before any possible contact with the allergic substance or the skin irritants.

Types of gloves available are:

  1. Latex Gloves
  2. Rubber Gloves
  3. Cotton gloves

Prefer using disposable gloves to avoid any accidental infections of the skin.

Latex gloves and rubber gloves are protective gloves with various other uses in industries thus, easily accessible. Cotton gloves need to be adequately washed daily after every use.

4.1.2. Petroleum Jelly

It is a protective barrier used to prevent over-drying of the skin due to eczema. It can be used at any time of day and has almost no side effects.

Washing hands with soap is very necessary before applying it.

Hands taking petroleum jelly from the container.
Photo by Towfiqu Barbhuiya on Unsplash Copyrights 2021

This jelly creates a protective layer over the skin and helps retain the moisture in the skin.

4.2. Using Barrier Repair Cream

As in eczema, the natural epidermal lipid layer is damaged, leading to transdermal loss of water. A barrier repair cream helps prevent the depletion of this protective layer and accelerates the formation of the new layer.

It is available easily and should be used on the prescription of a certified dermatologist.

Being fragrance-free, it is suitable for one and all.

4.3. Topical Corticosteroids

These are substances that are applied to the external skin and are available in the form of creams or sprays.

These should be used under the supervision of a certified dermatologist only. In infants, if there is a flare-up of eczema, low-potency corticosteroids are advised. The common ones that are used are hydrocortisone or clobetasone.

Usually, it is advised to apply these creams twice weekly for mild eczema. In severe cases, daily application can also be advised.

4.4. Antiallergics

Antiallergics help neutralize the histamines that cause allergic reactions. In cases of a flare-up of eczema, dermatologists advise taking antihistamines once a day, preferably at night.

They also help reduce the other symptoms related to allergies like an itch, fever, and redness over eczema.

4.5. Antimicrobial Therapy

In cases of skin infections secondary to eczema, it is necessary to start an antimicrobial therapy to prevent it from spreading to surrounding healthy skin.

This could worsen the condition and lead to an unwanted skin problem.

4.6. Home Remedies

A close-up of hands washing with clean water.
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash Copyrights 2019

Avoid contact with irritating substances that can cause eczema on your hands. Use cool compresses in case of acute hand eczema. This helps soothe the itch and reduces redness over the skin.

Do not rub or exfoliate the damaged skin as it can cause irritation and pain. Washing hands properly helps prevent eczema on hands as soap residue may also trigger hand eczema.

Using a soft towel to wipe hands also is an effective preventive measure.

4.7. Other Treatments

Using soap substitutes like cleansing oils, creams, and ointments is proven to be beneficial for preventing hand eczema.

Phototherapy and Systemic therapy are also used nowadays to treat hand eczema.

5. Conclusion

Hand eczema is very common and can be controlled effectively by a proper treatment plan. The symptoms may vary according to the stage of eczema. Guidance from a dermatologist plays an important role in treating hand eczema.

Before applying any product or cream to the skin carrying out a patch test is very important. A patch test helps in determining the suitability of the product for an individual. To conduct a patch test a small quantity of substance should be applied over an area and observed for the next 48 hours for adverse reactions.

In case any unwanted reaction or excessive redness and itchiness is noticed stop the use of the product and seek medical advice immediately. Preventive measures like gloves are highly effective and should be used on a daily basis.

Early symptoms of hand eczema should not be ignored any acted upon immediately.

Skin Rash Causes Symptoms Treatment
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  1. Berke, Rebecca, Arshdeep Singh, and Mark Guralnick. “Atopic dermatitis: an overview.” American family physician 86.1 (2012): 35-42. ↩︎
  2. Elston, D. M., Ahmed, D. D., Watsky, K. L., & Schwarzenberger, K. (2002). Hand dermatitis. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology47(2), 291-299. ↩︎
  3. Spergel, Jonathan M., and Amy S. Paller. “Atopic dermatitis and the atopic march.” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 112.6 (2003): S118-S127. ↩︎
  4. Ahmed, Najia, et al. “A comparative study on effect of endogenous and exogenous eczema on quality of life.” Pakistan Armed Forces Medical Journal 69.6 (2019): 1330-34. ↩︎
  5. Abreu-Velez, Ana Maria, Frank J. Pinto Jr, and Michael S. Howard. “Dyshidrotic eczema: relevance to the immune response in situ.” North American journal of medical sciences 1.3 (2009): 117. ↩︎
  6. Coenraads, Pieter-Jan. “Hand eczema.” New England Journal of Medicine 367.19 (2012): 1829-1837. ↩︎

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Diksha Jagwani

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