Eczema on the hands and feet can be particularly challenging to treat. Not only is this location painful, but the cracks and crevices between fingers and toes can be hard to reach with different remedies.
There are also different types of eczema that can present on hands and feet, which poses another challenge. The type of eczema often dictates the best treatment. Many eczema sufferers can have more than one type of eczema and can even have flare-ups from more than one type at the same time.
Dyshidrotic and Atopic Eczema
Two of the most common types of eczema that present on the hands and feet are atopic and dyshidrotic eczema. Someone who has atopic eczema can also have dyshidrotic eczema. Some people only have one type or the other.
Atopic eczema often presents as a rash or dry, itchy skin. Other symptoms may include scaly patches and raised bumps. Atopic eczema can impact different parts of the body, including face, arms and legs, torso, joints, hands and feet. Infants can develop atopic eczema of the scalp called cradle cap.
Dyshidrotic eczema only presents on the hands and feet, which is why it's often referred to as foot-and-hand eczema. It can present as small blisters on the palms and soles of the feet, which can be similar in appearance to the small bumps associated with atopic eczema. Typically, flare-ups for dyshidrotic eczema include burning and itching sensations and may include swelling of the area. Those who have dyshidrotic eczema may also notice scaly, crusty patches as the blisters heal.
Triggers and Risks
Hands and feet are often exposed to environmental triggers which can cause flare-ups. We'll discuss some of the better ways to treat eczema in the section below, but understanding your own triggers can help avoid flare-ups and make them less severe when they occur. Eczema on the hands and feet can occur at any age. Many people don't develop the condition until they're well into adulthood. It is more prevalent in people who have family members with a history of eczema, so there may be a genetic component involved.
Some common risks and triggers include:
- Weather. Severe cold or fluctuating temperatures can cause dry skin which may lead to a flare-up. While there's not much you can do to change the weather in your location, dressing for the weather and using extra precautions with your skincare routine can stave off irritation.
- Allergens/Allergies. Some types of eczema, such as dyshidrotic, can be caused by an allergic reaction to something in the environment. For some sufferers, it can coincide with allergy season.
- Stress. High stress from personal or professional issues can trigger eczema flare-ups.
- Moisture. Sweating and wearing wet socks can cause flare-ups on the feet, as can jobs or hobbies which keep hands submerged for long periods of time.
- Environmental Factors. There are many environmental factors that can trigger eczema. These might be harsh chemicals or things that the individual is allergic to which case irritation. Some common environmental triggers include soaps with fragrance, cleaning chemicals, certain metals, some fabrics.
- Diet. Diet and exercise promote overall health, which may also keep eczema more controlled. There are some foods that can trigger eczema flare-ups for people so it helps to keep track of the types of things you're eating and drinking to find and eliminate triggers.
Tips and Tricks to Treat Eczema on the Hands and Feet
Eczema flare-ups on the hands and feet can cause a great deal of pain and discomfort. During the most uncomfortable phase of healing, people often find it difficult to complete everyday tasks. While there is no cure for eczema, there are some great treatments that can help decrease the duration and severity of flare-ups. Combining these treatments with a healthy knowledge of your own risks and triggers is the best way to minimize the number of flare-ups you have.
- Avoid Environmental Factors. This may be more difficult than it sounds. Many sufferers find that the trigger is something associated with their profession, such as chemicals they come into contact with at work. If you can't avoid the factor entirely, make sure that you protect the prone skin when possible and take extra time with self care to mitigate outbreaks.
- Eczema Gloves. If you're prone to eczema on your hands, using eczema cotton gloves can limit exposure to environmental triggers. You might also use latex gloves while working with water.
- Cooling Rounds. When you are having a flare-up, it's important that you find ways to limit the pain and discomfort. These Eczema Honey Itch Cooling Face and Body Rounds are convenient and offer instant relief to the area. The packaging is small, making them easy to carry with you to work or when you're out of the house, and they offer you an extra soothing application when you can't apply messy treatments or soak the area.
- Drain Blisters. If you suffer from dyshidrotic eczema, your physician can drain painful blisters to help spur healing. It's important to have this done in a physician's office to limit risk of infection.
- Prescription Creams. In severe cases, your doctor might prescribe steroid cream or other prescription treatments to help ease symptoms.
- Special Socks. Sometimes the fabric can add to or cause an eczema flare-up, especially on the feet. There are specialty socks made for eczema sufferers. Often plain cotton socks work well, too. Colored socks and those in different fabric blends may irritate the skin.
- Soothing Foot and Hand Soak. Using a soak will help sooth the area, soften skin, and relieve swelling. This particular soak has three types of salt, vitamins to soften skin, and anti inflammatory properties.
- Cut Shower Times and Temperatures. Long showers or soaks in the tub can irritate eczema, as can high temperatures of water. It's better to use lukewarm water and minimize your time in the shower.
- Apply Moisturizer Regularly. Always moisturize after bathing or washing hands. You should moisturize the area at least a few times a day.
As odd as it might sound, it's better to avoid soap entirely during a flare-up. Soap removes oils which your body naturally produces. These oils can help promote healing of the area. You can also use special soap for eczema or very gentle soap if you'd prefer not to just rinse with water alone.