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  5. Hand Dermatitis: Causes, Prevention & Treatments

Do you have bleeding or weeping skin on your hands? Are you wondering what is making your hands dry, scaly, and itchy? Hand dermatitis could be the reason.

The bright side is hand dermatitis is impermanent and you can get relief from hand dermatitis with proper medications and topical creams. Scroll down to know what causes hand dermatitis, its symptoms and how to treat this skin condition. 

What Is Hand Dermatitis?

Hand dermatitis, also known as hand eczema, is a type of acute eczematous disorder that can affect both sides of your hand. It affects one in every 20 people. However, typically, 10 to 15 percent of the population experience chronic hand dermatitis. Hand dermatitis can be characterized by redness, itching and cracking of the skin on your hands. Your skin’s surface appears thick and scaly. 

Who Can Get Hand Dermatitis?

Hand dermatitis can occur at any age, even during childhood. But, it’s most commonly found among teenagers and adults. People with a history of atopic eczema [1] have higher chances of developing hand dermatitis. 

People who work in industries that involve cleaning, catering, hairdressing, healthcare [2], or those who are exposed to frequent water contact [3] are more likely to develop hand dermatitis. In such cases, the primary reason is their frequent contact with irritants [4] or harsh chemicals that damage their skin. 

Symptoms of Hand Dermatitis

  • Extremely dry hands
  • Red or dark brown patches on hands
  • Scaling and inflammation of skin
  • Itchy and burning sensation
  • Painful blisters
  • Cracking skin
  • Bleeding/weeping skin
  • Pus filling
  • Skin peeling due to extreme dryness

women's hands are scratching allergy to red rash

Types & Causes of Hand Dermatitis

1. Irritant Contact Dermatitis

The most common type of hand dermatitis is irritant contact dermatitis.This removes the natural moisture and oils from your skin’s outer layer and allows the irritants to penetrate deeply into your skin, leading to inflammation. 


It happens when your skin is either exposed to irritants or harsh chemicals like solvents, bleach, detergents or comes in frequent contact with water. 

2. Atopic Dermatitis

This type of hand dermatitis mostly occurs to people with atopic tendency, a genetic tendency where one can develop allergic diseases such as hay fever, asthma and atopic dermatitis. 

It is most common in children, but adults too can develop this chronic skin condition. Atopic dermatitis is characterized by red and itchy skin. 


Along with genetics, few factors can trigger atopic dermatitis such as stress, excessive sweat, long showers, extreme weather conditions, low humidity, harsh soaps or detergents, certain food items like fish, soy, egg etc. 

3. Occupational Dermatitis

Occupational dermatitis causes redness and irritation on your skin. In some cases, it might also lead to swelling of your skin and result in blisters. Also, direct contact with any specific allergens can lead to thickening of your skin, eventually leading to wart-like skin eruptions. 


Occupational dermatitis occurs when your skin comes in contact with any allergenic substances or irritants in your workplace such as wet cement, acids, oils and greases, dust, etc. 

Usually, occupational dermatitis is a result of direct contact with irritants, but in rare cases it might be due to airborne pathogens. 

4. Allergic Contact Dermatitis

Allergic contact dermatitis is a hypersensitive skin condition where your skin turns red and itchy, and causes inflammation. 


This occurs when your hands come in direct contact with allergens like nickel [5], rubber accelerators (which is found in gloves), fragrances [6] etc. 

The severity of your skin inflammation due to allergic contact dermatitis depends on the concentration of the allergens, frequency, and time-span of the exposure. For example, a medical professional uses clinical gloves every day. 

Occupations that are at high risk of getting hand dermatitis:

  • Cleaning staff
  • Painters
  • Healthcare professionals
  • Food industry workers
  • People working at laboratories
  • Hairdressers
  • Farmers
  • Vehicle repairing worker
  • Homemaker
  • Construction worker
  • Employees at publishing press

How To Prevent Hand Dermatitis?

  • Limit your exposure to irritants such as water and detergents.
  • Try using mild hand-washes while rinsing your hand and make sure to dry them using a towel.
  • Stay away from the known allergens.
  • While doing any task, wear appropriate gloves to protect your hands.
  • Apply a barrier cream to your hands before exposure to irritants.
  • Use sunscreen before going out in the sun.
  • Apply moisturizer or hand creams, just after washing your hands.

Note :

Hand cleansers are not antibacterial. Hence, during the difficult times of covid-19, use antibacterial soap or sanitiser for cleaning your hands.

Tips For Avoiding Dermatitis From Gloves:

  • Thoroughly clean the gloves and check for holes.
  • Use cotton-lined gloves for better comfort.
  • Try taking a frequent break from wearing gloves to avoid sweating.
  • Avoiding wearing gloves for a prolonged period.

Avoiding Dermatitis From Gloves

How To Treat Hand Dermatitis?

1. Topical Steroids

  • Use over-the-counter creams and ointments to get relief from the symptoms.
  • Apply topical steroids only on the affected areas, twice daily.
  • Use ultrapotent topical steroid for your palms as they have thicker skin.

2. Ultraviolet Radiation Therapy

  • Ultraviolet B (NB-UVB) light is used to treat all types of dermatitis. It is a hospital-based treatment only for severe cases.
  • Ultraviolet radiation therapy decreases skin inflammation.
  • This therapy takes around six weeks which involves two to three times per week of hospital visits.

3. Alitretinoin

  • Alitretinoin is a vitamin A-based treatment used for hand dermatitis.
  • It is a professional treatment and only to be used for severe cases.
  • The course of this treatment can last up to six months.
  • Pregnant women must avoid this treatment.

4. Oral Steroids

  • Systemic steroids are mostly used for severe hand dermatitis.
  • It cures acute vesicular symptoms.
  • Few known side effects of oral steroids are cataracts, osteoporosis etc.

5. Moisturizers

  • Moisturizers repair the uppermost layer of your skin by offering hydration.
  • It also reduces the chances of secondary bacterial infection.
  • Apply it throughout the day or whenever your skin feels dry.

Other Treatments

  • Studies show that calcineurin [7] are potent in treating hand dermatitis.
  • If your hand dermatitis is caused by an injury, you may go for an antibiotic like flucloxacillin [8].
  • Second-line agents such as phototherapy, azathioprine, alitretinoin are used to treat chronic hand dermatitis.
  • Antistaphylococcal antibiotics like cephalexin or dicloxacillin are considered as an effective treatment for hand dermatitis.
  • Oral antihistamines helps with treating allergies caused by hand dermatitis.

How Is Hand Dermatitis diagnosed?

Diagnosis of hand dermatitis is done after a careful examination of your skin. There are a few points that are taken into consideration while diagnosing hand dermatitis.

  • Any history of skin disease.
  • Whether you have dermatitis in any other part of your body.
  • If your hands become red or inflamed after wearing gloves.
  • If you develop itching or swelling after touching any particular substance.
  • If your hand becomes red and scaly (sign of Psoriasis).
  • Patch test by dermatologist.

What Are The Complications of Hand Dermatitis?

  • Fingertip dermatitis (occurs at the end of your finger) may cause you deformed fingernails.
  • A bacterial skin infection can cause crusting of your skin and pain.
  • Hand dermatitis sometimes starts spreading to other areas of your body especially on forearms and feet.

Wrapping Up

Identifying the symptoms of hand dermatitis and treating them right can help your skin completely recover from this skin condition. Make sure to wear gloves before coming in contact with harsh chemicals. Keep your hands moisturized to prevent hand dermatitis. In case of severe conditions such as bleeding or peeling of skin, consult a dermatologist without fail.

Begin By Knowing Your Skin

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