Hand dermatitis (also known as hand eczema) often results from a combination of causes, including genetic makeup (constitutional factors), injury (contact with irritants) and allergy. It is frequently caused or aggravated by work, when it is known as occupational dermatitis. Hand dermatitis is particularly common in industries involving cleaning, catering, metalwork, hairdressing, healthcare and mechanical work.
Hand dermatitis varies in severity. It may affect the backs of the hands, the palms or both sites. Often it starts as a mild intermittent complaint, but it can become increasingly severe and persistent. The affected skin initially becomes red and dry, then progresses to itchy papules (bumps) and fluid-filled blisters (vesicles), scaling, cracking (fissures), weeping (exudation) and swelling (oedema). Bacterial infection can result in pustules, crusting and pain. Longstanding dermatitis at the ends of the fingers may result in deformed nails. Hand dermatitis can spread to affect other sites, particularly the forearms and feet.
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