Irritant Contact Hand Eczema
This patient information and photograph on Irritant Contact Hand Eczema is provided by John L. Meisenheimer, M.D. a board certified Dermatologist and skin care specialist based in Orlando, Florida. This information is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice or treatment of a dermatologist or other physician.
What is it? Irritant contact hand eczema is a frequent disorder of the skin. In lay terms this disorder is sometimes known as "housewives eczema". It can occur at any age. Typically it appears as small fissures and cracks on the tips of the fingers. In severe cases the may be redness, scaling, crusting, and the palms may be involved. If the skin around the edges of the nails is involved the nails may become irregular. Click here for other types of eczema.
What causes it? Sensitive hands when in contact with irritants become inflamed, and it is
repeated minor irritations that cause your hand eczema. This is very difficult to tell from allergic contact hand eczema and patch testing may be needed to tell the two conditions apart. Sometimes allergic and irritant reactions occur together.
Irritant hand eczema is worsened by a number of things. Cleaning fluids, detergents, soaps, and other chemicals can all irritate the skin and cause hand eczema. The most important risk factor for development of hand eczema is repeated exposure to water. Water exposure washes the protective layer of oil out of the skin and causes dryness and cracking. When the hands have lost this protective layer they are easily irritated.
Is it dangerous? For the typical healthy person hand eczema is a harmless disorder. It is not related to cancer and it does not involve internal organs. Severe cases may be temporarily disabling.
Can it be cured? The treatment program I put you on will help control or clear the disorder, but it is not a cure. Even if the hand eczema is totally cleared, you will still be predisposed to have repeat episodes if re-exposed to the inciting factors. Repeat treatments may be needed and some individuals may require continuous therapy.
Will it spread? It generally stays localized to the hands.
Is it contagious? It is not contagious and you can not "catch" it from anyone.