Getting a Handle on Hand Eczema in Young Adults

Eczema of the hands in young adults explored in new Swedish study

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Issues with the skin, especially skin on the hands, can interfere with many different aspects of life. To better predict the presence of a certain skin condition on the hands — eczema — the authors of a new study followed young adults for eight years.

The research focused on young adults in Sweden and examined the presence of eczema of the hands.

The study found that people with childhood eczema were more likely to develop hand eczema as young adults, and that factors like too much handwashing may play a role.

"Wear gloves while cooking or cleaning to protect sensitive skin."

Eczema is a term for various conditions resulting from chronic inflammation of the skin. Symptoms often involve itchiness, redness, dryness and sometimes blistering or peeling skin.

According to the authors of this new study, led by Arne Johannisson, PhD, of the Department of Health Sciences at Lund University in Lund, Sweden, eczema of the hands is a common condition, especially among women.

According to the National Eczema Association, "The irritant nature of some chemicals means that hand eczema is particularly common in people with jobs involving cleaning, catering, hairdressing, healthcare and mechanical work."

Dr. Johannisson and colleagues wanted to explore the prevalence of hand eczema in young adults and potentially uncover risk factors for the condition.

The researchers identified 2,403 young adults who were between 16 and 19 years old in 1995. The participants were followed for 13 years until 2008, when they were 29 to 32 years old.

Participants completed a mailed questionnaire that asked about hand eczema during the previous year, childhood eczema and a variety of other factors thought to affect hand eczema, like handwashing, washing and cleaning, cooking, caring for small children and moisturizer use.

Dr. Johannisson and colleagues found that in 1995, 13.3 percent of young adults reported having hand eczema currently or during the previous 12 months. By 2008, an additional 198 young adults reported having hand eczema during the previous year, increasing the rate to 15.8 percent.

The condition was more common in women. In 2008, 20.3 percent of women and 10.0 percent of men reported hand eczema during the previous year.

The researchers found that participants who reported having childhood eczema (26.4 percent) were more likely to have hand eczema as young adults. The researchers also saw an association between a high frequency of handwashing and the condition, but only in the group who reported having hand eczema in the year prior to the 2008 survey.

"This study demonstrated that incidence of hand eczema in early adulthood tends to be associated with factors in everyday life such as frequent handwashing," the study authors concluded.

In an interview with dailyRx News, Glenn Kolansky, MD, of the Advanced Dermatology Surgery and Laser Center in Tinton Falls, New Jersey, explained how frequent handwashing can affect the skin.

Dr. Kolansky explained that frequent hand washing can strip the skin of its natural barrier function, and may also remove natural oils and dry out the skin.

Luckily, there are steps to take if sensitive skin on the hands is an issue.

"Hand washing with gentle (creamy and white) hand soaps maybe beneficial," said Dr. Kolansky, who also recommended avoiding deodorant soaps or soaps with fragrance if skin is sensitive or if these products irritate the skin.

"It is recommended to use gloves while performing activities involving irritants or chemical agents," Dr. Kolansky also noted.

It is important to note that the data was self-reported by participants, which may leave some room for error.

This study was published October 29 by BMC Dermatology. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Review Date: 
October 30, 2013
Last Updated:
April 3, 2014