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Hand dermatitis can be classified as a type of eczema that appears on hands, usually due to job-related factors. It is different than seborrheic dermatitis or contact dermatitis, which are much more specific types of this skin condition.

Symptoms of hand dermatitis

As the name suggests, hand dermatitis appears on hands and sometimes it extends on arms too. The main symptoms include dry, chapped and cracked skin, patches of red, inflamed skin that eventually starts flaking, blisters and lesions that may burst and weep, and nail deformations.

Causes of hand dermatitis

Anyone, from newborns to elderly, can develop hand dermatitis. However, it is estimated that, for some reason, women seem to be more susceptible to it.

There is no single, clear-cut cause for this skin condition. It may occur for a number of reasons, but it is usually a combination of factors that leads to it. Those factors may include genes, irritation, frequent hand washing, allergies, use of gloves, especially those made of latex, certain medical conditions, the nature of occupation, stress, malnutrition, dry and cold weather and excessive perspiration.

Diagnose and treatment

Hand dermatitis may be difficult to diagnose because so many factors may cause it. In order to make the diagnosis, doctors usually perform a physical exam and they take the patient’s medical history, concentrating on the factors which may have triggered the first flare-up of hand dermatitis.

Extensive patch testing is often required in order to diagnose hand dermatitis. Patch testing means applying a number of allergens and observing the reaction to them. Reactions are not necessarily immediate and they often occur with a delay.

Sometimes the skin affected by dermatitis becomes infected. In that case, it may be necessary to scrape some skin and to take it to the laboratory, where it will be examined.

As for the treatment, it depends on the severity and the cause of dermatitis. Corticosteroids are usually prescribed to reduce the inflammation. In case of a secondary infection, it may be necessary to take antibiotics as well.

Topical calcineurin inhibitors may be used as an alternative to corticosteroids. They also relieve inflammation and they are often quite effective against dermatitis.

In case hand dermatitis was caused by excessive perspiration, it may help to use botulinum type A. it reduces sweating and thus helps against the inflammation.

Many doctors also recommend the use of phototherapy for cases of hand dermatitis. This treatment combines a medication called psorlen and UVA light. This type of treatment is particularly recommended for chronic hand dermatitis.

Mild cases of hand dermatitis can be treated very simply with emollients and moisturizers. However, if they do not help in several days, it may be required to see a doctor and start with a more serious treatment.

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