Hand dermatitis results when sensitive skin comes into contact with materials which caus an irritant or allergic reaction. Often, we cannot find a single substance which is responsible for the rash and symptoms, but we are able to identify generally irritating materials. Some of these may be things to which the person has been exposed to for months or years.
The following is a list of the major inciting agents:
- Heredity and constitution play and important role. Many blue-eyed, sun-intolerant people have a skin with naturally poor physical resistance. If there is a background of eczema, asthma, hay fever or psoriasis in the family, or if an individual has suffered from any of these, the skin tends to be more sensitive.
- Nervous stress can be a contributing factor. When an individual is nervous, the hand perspires more freely and the blood vessels in the skin open up. Blushing is a good example of this situation. When the fluid content of the skin increases, it reddens and produces or aggravates itching.
- Soaps and detergents are common causes of hand eruptions. Both are designed to remove grease, and they do this so efficiently that the normal protective layer of the skin lubricants is removed and the detergent remains behind in the skin. This degreasing of the surface permits water from beneath the skin to evaporate rapidly into the direr air surrounding it, and the result is a dry, chapping. This is often the first step in the production of a severe eruption. After hands have been exposed to detergent, even for a short period of time, they should be rinsed adequately in lukewarm water to remove these chemicals, and then a hand cream should be applied.
- Chemicals, paints, polishes, bleaches, disinfectants, waxes, cleaners, sprays and various other types of abrasives can injure the skin. Citrus fruit, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, fish and seafood are less common irritants, but when they come into contact with the skin, may cause skin eruptions.
- Contact allergies are those in which an individual breaks out when the skin is in contact with jewelry, watch bands, poison ivy, etc. These are true allergies and will cause violent, blistering reactions to the skin. Persistent hand eruptions may occasionally be traced to materials used in hobbies or at work. An individual can also become allergic to the very medication being used to treat the eruption. There are means to identify and eliminate the offending agent in most cases.
- Ring finger eruptions often begin at the base of the ring finger. There is usually a space beneath the ring which accumulates soap, water and household debris over a period of months. Because it is covered by the ring, this area of skin remains wet when the remainder of the hand dries through toweling. Constant friction of this wet mass against the skin produces irritation and provides a source from which the eruption may rapidly spread. We recommend periodically removing the ring and cleaning it thoroughly with a tooth brush and warm water.
Shopping List For Hand Dermatitis Patients
- Vinyl gloves, any brand, 4-5 pairs Use these gloves when doing wet work
- Leather or heavy duty fabric glove, 4-5 pairs Use these gloves when doing heavy, dry work such as gardening
- White dermal cotton gloves (for severe dermatitis), 4-5 pairs May apply damp gloves over steroid cream at night, top with vinyl glove or plastic bag for maximal improvement. These gloves are available from local pharmacies and camera stores.
- Recommended soaps:
- Cetaphil cleanser
- Oil of Olay Beauty Bar
- Aveeno bar
- Recommended lubricating creams:
- Eucerin cream
- Shepard's Dry Skin Cream (unscented)
- Cetaphil cream
- Theraplex emollient
Please do not use any creams, lotions, ointments or other preparations except as indicated by your doctor.