Eczema can cause pain and discomfort in all parts of the body, but eczema on the hands can cause more serious problems. Whether your eczema is caused by irritants, allergies, or heredity, there are steps you can take to help treat it. One of the first things you should do is see a doctor to make sure that you do have eczema. Doctors can also run tests to determine what irritants or allergies are triggering eczema. Once these causative factors are identified, your doctor can suggest corticosteroid creams, antibiotics, cold compresses, and changes to the products you use every day. Keep reading to learn more about how to treat eczema on the hands.
Method 1 of 3: Identifying Hand Eczema
Step 1. Look for the symptoms of hand eczema
Eczema of the hands and fingers is a common condition. If you think you have eczema, see your doctor for a diagnosis and treatment. You may have eczema if you notice any of the following symptoms in your hands and fingers:
- Reddish color
- Itchy rash
- Extreme drought
- Cracked skin
- Purulent rash
Step 2. Determine if your eczema is caused by things that trigger irritation
Irritant dermatitis is the most common form of hand eczema. It is caused by regular and prolonged exposure to substances that irritate the skin. These irritating products come in various forms that come into direct contact with the skin, such as cleaning agents, chemicals, food, metals, plastics, and even water. Symptoms of this type of eczema include:
- skin that becomes rough and red at the tips of the fingers and between the fingers
- stinging and tingling feeling when you come into contact with irritants
Step 3. Consider whether your eczema is caused by allergies
Some people suffer from a form of eczema called contact allergic dermatitis. In this case, eczema is caused by an allergy to a substance, such as soap, hair dye, fragrance, rubber, or even a plant. The symptoms of this type of eczema are usually concentrated on the inside of the hands and fingertips, although they can occur anywhere on the hand. These symptoms include:
- purulent rash, itching, swelling, and redness after exposure to allergens
- the appearance of crusts, scales, or cracks on the skin
- darkening and/or thickening of the skin after prolonged exposure to the allergen
Step 4. Determine if the eczema on the hands is due to atopic dermatitis
Hand eczema like this is more common in children than adults, although they can still experience it. If you have eczema symptoms anywhere other than your hands, the cause may be atopic dermatitis. Here are the signs:
- itching that lasts for days or weeks
- skin thickening
- wound on the skin
Method 2 of 3: Treating Hand Eczema
Step 1. Find a doctor as soon as possible to get a diagnosis
Before you start any treatment, see your doctor to make sure that you have eczema and not something else, including psoriasis or a yeast infection. Your doctor can help you determine the best treatment options and even provide specialist referrals if your eczema is severe.
Step 2. Get an allergy test from your doctor
To determine the cause of eczema, the doctor can perform allergy tests. If you think your hand eczema is caused by allergies, talk to your doctor about getting tested. The results will help you figure out what's causing your eczema, so you can avoid it.
- During an allergy test, the doctor will apply various substances to a type of plaster and attach it to the skin to determine the cause of eczema. The test won't be painful, but you may experience some stinging and irritation from the substances and the reactions they have on your skin.
- Nickel is a common irritant that can cause eczema inflammation. Allergy tests can detect it.
- You can also compile a list of the products you use on/near your hands on a regular basis. This list may include soaps, moisturizers, cleaning products, and any other specialty substances you touch at work or at home.
Step 3. Consider using 1% hydrocortisone ointment
Your doctor may recommend this ointment to help with eczema. Hydrocortisone ointment is available over-the-counter and by prescription. Ask your doctor for recommendations if you're not sure what to look for.
- Most hydrocortisone ointments should be applied while the skin is still damp, such as after bathing or washing hands. Make sure you follow the instructions given by your doctor.
- Stronger topical corticosteroid medications may be needed in some cases, but usually you can only buy them with a prescription.
Step 4. Use a cold compress to help reduce itching
Eczema usually causes extreme itching, but make sure you don't scratch your hands just to relieve it. Scratching can cause eczema to get worse and the skin to become damaged, giving you an infection. If your hands are itchy, use a cold compress to relieve the itching.
- To make a cold compress, wrap an ice pack or plastic bag filled with ice in a paper towel/towel.
- You can also try keeping your nails trimmed and filed to help prevent yourself from scratching and making eczema worse.
Step 5. Consider taking an oral antihistamine
In some cases, over-the-counter oral antihistamines can help with hand eczema. Be aware that these medications may cause drowsiness, so don't take them during the day when you have to do things. Check with your doctor to make sure an over-the-counter oral antihistamine is the right solution for your hand eczema.
Step 6. Also ask your doctor to see if you need antibiotics
Eczema can sometimes cause infection due to openings in the skin that appear as a result of sores, cracked skin, and purulent rashes. If your skin is red, hot, swollen, and/or sore or doesn't respond to eczema treatments, you may have an infection. Make sure you talk to your doctor about using antibiotics to treat infections caused by eczema.
- Do not take antibiotics unless prescribed by a doctor. Taking antibiotics when they are not needed can make them less effective when you really need them.
- Take the dose of antibiotics your doctor prescribes. Even if your infection has cleared, it may come back and be more difficult to treat if you don't finish your dose of antibiotics.
Step 7. Ask your doctor about prescription medications
In some cases, hand eczema may not respond to over-the-counter topical creams and lifestyle changes. If this happens, your doctor may need to prescribe systemic (rather than topical) corticosteroids, or immunosuppressant medications. Neither of these options should be considered unless you have tried to treat eczema in other ways – because they both have bad side effects.
Step 8. Talk to your doctor about prescription topical immunomodulatory medications
If your eczema doesn't respond to other treatment options, you might consider talking to your doctor about a cream like this. Examples are Elidel and Protopic, which have FDA safety approvals for eczema. These drugs change the way the body's immune system responds to some substances, so they can be helpful when all other methods don't work.
These creams are usually safe, but may cause some side effects in certain cases. Use only as a last resort
Step 9. Ask your doctor about phototherapy
Some skin diseases, including eczema, react well to phototherapy, or controlled exposure to ultraviolet light. Phototherapy should only be used when topical approaches fail, but before you choose a systemic option.
This treatment is effective for 60-70% of patients, but it may take several months of consistent treatment before you experience improvement
Method 3 of 3: Prevent Hand Eczema
Step 1. Reduce your exposure to eczema triggers
After your doctor runs allergy tests, you'll know what triggers are causing or worsening your eczema. Do your best to prevent exposure to these triggers. Use a household cleaner, ask someone else to handle the food that causes eczema, or wear gloves as a barrier between your hands and the substance that triggers eczema.
Step 2. Choose soaps and moisturizers that are free of strong fragrances and dyes
Eczema on the hands may also be caused by dyes and fragrances in soaps and moisturizers. Stay away from soaps and moisturizers that contain artificial fragrances or colors. Look for products specially prepared for sensitive skin or all natural products. If you know that a certain soap or moisturizer is causing your eczema to flare up, don't use that product.
- Consider using petroleum jelly instead of moisturizer; these jellies are more risk-free and may even be more effective at moisturizing the body.
- Don't wash your hands too often. While you should stay away from irritants, washing your hands regularly can make eczema worse. Avoid washing your hands except when they are dirty.
Step 3. Keep hands dry
Hands that are often wet or damp are more at risk of developing eczema. If you spend a lot of time doing the dishes manually or doing other things that get your hands wet, try to reduce these activities as much as possible. For example, you could use the dishwasher to clean the dishes instead of washing them by hand, or at least wear gloves to keep your hands from getting wet when washing the dishes.
- Dry your hands immediately after washing or wetting them. Make sure your hands are completely dry.
- Take shorter showers to reduce the amount of time your hands are wet.
Step 4. Moisturize your hands frequently
A good moisturizer is important to prevent eczema inflammation. Make sure you use a moisturizer that doesn't irritate the skin. Ointments are usually the best option for hand eczema, as they moisturize better and are less stinging and burning when applied to irritated skin. Always carry a moisturizer in a small bottle to make sure your hands are always well moisturized. Moisturize your hands every time you wash them or when they start to feel dry.
You can ask your doctor about prescription hand moisturizers, such as Tetrix. This can be far more effective than store-bought moisturizers
Step 5. Wear cotton-lined gloves when you are dealing with irritants or allergies
If you can't avoid chemicals and other substances that irritate your hands, buy rubber-coated gloves to protect them from exposure to these substances. Wear gloves whenever you are dealing with irritants.
- Wash gloves with perfume and dye-free soap if necessary. Turn it over and hang it to dry thoroughly before you use it again.
- If you need gloves for cooking and cleaning the house, make sure you prepare two different pairs for these activities.
Step 6. Remove the ring when your hand is irritated or allergic
The ring can trap eczema-causing substances in between. As a result, inflammation under and around the ring may multiply. Try removing the ring before exposing your fingers and washing or moisturizing them.
Step 7. Ask your doctor about using a bleach solution to treat eczema on your hands
A solution of bleach and water mixed properly can help reduce the number of bacteria on your hands, thereby helping your eczema problem. Of course, if bleach is the cause of your eczema, avoid it. Talk to your doctor before deciding to use bleach in your hand hygiene routine.
- Keep in mind that the bleach solution you use in the liquid mixture for soaking your hands must contain a lot of water. Use only teaspoon per 3.7 liters of water.
- Be careful that the bleach doesn't get on clothes, carpets, or anything else causing the color to change.
Step 8. Control stress levels
In some cases, the inflammation of eczema may be caused or exacerbated by stress. To help get rid of this factor, make sure you practice self-relaxation techniques in your daily life. Exercise every day and take some time to relax. Some calming activities you can try include practicing yoga, doing deep breathing exercises, or meditating.
- Try setting up a humidifier, especially if you live in an area with a dry climate. Keeping the air moist can help reduce eczema symptoms.
- Talk to your doctor if your eczema gets worse or doesn't improve after treatment.
- Know that treating eczema takes time and it may never go away completely. You must determine the best treatment method so that you can continue to use it to treat eczema.