Does Eczema on the Hands Ever Go Away?

Reviewed on 3/23/2022

A child's hand red from eczema
Eczema on the hands will not go away on its own, but it can be managed with home care and medications.

Eczema refers to a group of chronic skin conditions that cause itchy, red, inflamed, and scaly skin on the hands and elsewhere on the body. 

A specific type of hand eczema called pompholyx or dyshidrotic eczema causes small, itchy blisters to appear on the palms of the hands. 

Eczema on the hands and elsewhere on the body is a chronic condition that can periodically worsen (flare) in between times of mild to no symptoms. There is no cure for hand eczema and it will not go away on its own, but it can be managed with home care and medications. 

Home remedies to relieve or reduce symptoms of hand eczema may include: 

  • Identifying and avoiding triggers is often the best treatment
  • Keeping the skin hydrated
    • Emollients
      • Use thick creams or ointments 
      • Moisturizers with a higher oil content such as ointments and creams are most effective 
      • Keep moisturizer near every sink in your home, to remember to apply it after hand washing
    • Washing hands
      • Use lukewarm water (not hot) 
      • Use unscented, mild soap or non-soap cleanser sparingly
      • Apply an emollient immediately after washing hands while skin is still damp
      • Carry your own hand cleanser, moisturizer, and medication with you
      • Avoid waterless, antibacterial cleansers, which often contain alcohol and solvents that are harsh on the hands, especially during flare-ups
  • Wet dressings (wet wraps) to help soothe and hydrate skin, reduce itching and redness, loosen crusted areas, and prevent skin injury due to scratching
  • Use cotton gloves to protect the hands in the home while doing chores
    • Wash gloves with fragrance-free, dye-free detergent
  • Use a combination of vinyl gloves with cotton liners for work that involves getting the hands wet
  • Use disposable gloves when preparing foods such as potatoes, onions, peppers, meat, or acidic fruits tomatoes or citrus
  • Do not wash dishes or clothes by hand - use a dishwasher and washing machine
  • When eczema clears, use petroleum jelly on the hands overnight with gloves

Medications used to treat hand eczema include:

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription topical steroid creams or ointments 
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription oral antihistamines for itching 
  • Oral steroids (e.g., prednisone) may be used for a short duration to treat severe flares
  • Tacrolimus ointment (Protopic) and pimecrolimus cream (Elidel)
  • Injectable biologics such as dupilumab (Dupixent) for adults with moderate to severe eczema that has not responded to other treatments
  • Immunosuppressive drugs for patients with severe eczema who do not improve with other treatments
  • Ultraviolet light therapy (phototherapy) may be used to help control hand eczema but it is reserved for patients with severe eczema who do not respond to other treatments because it is expensive and may increase the risk of developing skin cancer.

What Are Symptoms of Eczema on Hands?

Symptoms of eczema on the hands and fingers include: 

  • Intense skin itching 
    • Itching may worsen at night
    • Scratching can increase itching and inflammation
    • Oozing, bleeding, or crusting may occur if skin is scratched open
    • Pustules, blisters, and red, hot skin may occur if a secondary infection occurs
    • Thickened, darkened, and scarred skin may result from repeated scratching 
  • Patches of inflamed skin
  • Skin redness 
  • Scaly, rough patches of skin
  • Sensitive skin
  • Pain
  • Dry skin
  • Skin flaking and peeling
  • Cracks in the skin
  • Plugged hair follicles that cause small bumps
    • Usually on the face, upper arms, and thighs
  • Skin discoloration (especially red or pink)
  • Increased skin creasing on the palms and/or an extra fold of skin under the eye
  • Darkening of the skin around the eyes

 

What Causes Eczema on Hands?

The cause of eczema on the hands and elsewhere on the body is not completely understood but people with a family history of eczema are at increased risk of developing the condition so it is believed that genetics, along with certain triggers, play a strong role. 

Triggers for symptoms of eczema on the hands may include:

  • Skin irritants such as soaps, cleansers, shampoos, disinfectants, perfumes, cosmetics, and fresh fruit juices
  • Wool or synthetic fibers such as polyester 
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Stress
  • Cold or dry environments
  • Sweating
  • Rapid temperature changes
  • Dust or sand
  • Metals (especially nickel)

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Reviewed on 3/23/2022
References
Image Source: iStock Images

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/eczema-atopic-dermatitis-beyond-the-basics?search=Eczema&source=search_result&selectedTitle=2~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=2

https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/types-of-eczema/hand-eczema/