Health + Wellness

Are Your Hands Just Dry, Or Is It Eczema?

eczema on hands

Sometimes that irritated skin on your hands is more than simple dryness.

Hand eczema could be the culprit, with painful dry and itchy skin on all or part of the hand and fingers.

Dry hands or eczema?

“If your hands are extremely dry and painful, and using moisturizer throughout the day is not helping to relieve them, you may have hand eczema,” says Dr. Dawn Davis, a pediatric and adult dermatologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. “Without the proper treatment and preventive measures, hand eczema may worsen.”

Eczema might look like patches of red, dark brown, purple or gray irritated skin, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. It can be scaly, inflamed and itchy. It can feel like it’s burning or include itchy blisters and deep, painful cracks, as well as crusts, pus and bleeding or weeping skin.

“Hand eczema can flare from a variety of triggers,” Davis said in an academy news release. “Some patients will see increased irritation in cooler, dry temperatures, while for others the condition may worsen during warmer months due to sweating. A trigger or flare for one patient could be different than flares or triggers for other patients.”

Flare-ups can arise from not properly drying wet hands or an allergic reaction, such as to latex or jewelry metals. People who had eczema (atopic dermatitis) as a child have a higher risk of developing hand eczema. Chemicals like solvents, detergents and cement can increase risk.

RELATED: 6 Tips For Washing Your Hands if You Have Eczema

How to prevent flare-ups

Prevent flare-ups by using a gentle hand or hypoallergenic cleanser, not washing too frequently and making sure to rinse off any excess cleanser, Davis says. Rinse well between the fingers where cleanser can accumulate.

Also, gently pat hands dry with a towel instead of air drying, she suggests. Use fragrance-free creams and ointments instead of lotions.

“At the core of all eczema treatments is a sensitive skincare routine,” Davis adds. “It’s important to note that patients with hand eczema may

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