Housewives’ eczema is a type of hand eczema named for its frequent occurrence among housewives. In particular, it affects mothers who regularly engage in a wide range of chores that involve putting hands in water. The most common factor leading to this dermatitis is repeated exposure to, and chronic irritation from, water and synthetic detergents.
Housewives’ eczema, unlike other types of eczema, is not normally accompanied by itching. However, the affected skin at the fingertips may become thinner and show redness and scaling. As this disorder advances, it may result in cracking skin, pain and bleeding.
Housewives’ eczema commonly appears on the tips of the first, second and third fingers of the right hand due to more frequent use. In severe cases, it progresses down the fingers to the palm. It can lead to fungal infection of fingernails and secondary infections, causing pustules and pain in the fingernails.
Housewives’ eczema also frequently affects those with a history of atopic dermatitis. Many patients diagnosed with this dermatitis are found to be allergic to rubber products, perfume and metal. Their hands become red and swollen and papules form when exposed to such allergens, interfering with treatment. Housewives’ eczema is a contact dermatitis resulting from a combination of causes. The condition of the epidermis, the exposed regions of the skin, the age of the patient and the environmental factors (temperature and humidity) all play instrumental roles.
Although the skin is protected by a thin layer of fat that is also highly resistant of bacteria, when the hands come in contact with irritants such as detergents and soaps, this outer protective layer of the skin can be destroyed.
The result is dryness of the hands and cracking or thinning of the fingertip skin, especially the cuticles. This disorder is more likely to appear and recur frequently during the changing of seasons when the humidity is low.
It is critical to reduce exposure to water and detergents to prevent housewives’ eczema.
Make sure to wear cotton-lined rubber gloves or a separate pair of cotton gloves inside rubber gloves when engaged in ‘wet work’. Change the cotton gloves immediately when they become damp from sweat or moisture to keep the hands dry at all times. Try to keep exposure to water at a minimum by reducing the frequency of ‘wet work’ and seek treatment right after the onset of eczema to prevent further aggravation.
Once housewives’ eczema occurs, it should be treated immediately. Delayed treatment may lead to pain, cracking and secondary infections.
Drinking a lot of water will not sufficiently hydrate skin and is unlikely to improve hand eczema. The best way to deal with this skin condition in earlier stages is to moisturize your skin. An ideal moisturizer for hand eczema offers three functions – intensively moisturizes skin, restores damaged skin barrier, and reduces redness, irritation and dry cracks. While steroid creams might have been commonly recommended, it is important to know that this form of hand eczema does not itch. Furthermore, our hands contact many different objects, materials and parts of our own body throughout the day. Steroid cream on the finger tips will rub off to whatever object they touch. While dry and cracked skin may cause discomfort or even pain, a strong, steroid-free moisturizer will improve dried or cracked skin condition significantly and quickly without any potential side effects. So why not give it try first before turning to prescription medication?
But if secondary infections are found, a product with antibiotic and antifungal components should be used. Lotion treatments are easy to apply over a relatively wide area.