Hand dermatitis & mental health: more connected than you thought

Do you struggle with hand eczema? Know someone who is frustrated by having their hands irritated because they work in the restaurant or hair care industry? What you might not know is that depression can, quite literally, come hand-in-hand with this frustrating condition. Hand eczema is an incredibly difficult situation to deal with, especially if one’s job requires them to handle water and chemicals all the time – and such careers can affect you until you’re absolutely miserable. Today, I’ll be discussing research that proves mental health is also something to worry about.

By evaluating the quality of life, anxiety and depression of 71 patients with and without hand eczema, those with hand dermatitis were found to have significantly higher numbers across all three factors, including compulsive behaviour.

The consensus? Chronic hand eczema is now associated with significant psychological effects that should be addressed as part of one’s overall treatment plan. Some obsessive–compulsive behaviors may be a result of hand eczema (ie, compulsive hand washing) or a contributory factor (ie, exacerbated symptoms from compulsive scratching or picking), and will require more investigation.

So, if you’re feeling anxious or depressed – or know someone who is – and can’t put your finger on why, it may be due to hand dermatitis. It’s important for those affected and the people close to them to be aware that it can affect people significantly, and career environments should be the first place to consider altering.

If changing work environments is too dramatic for you, you may want to try incorporating some of these healthy habits instead:

  1. Wash with sudless soap.
  2. Moisturize with heavy cream or ointment while hands are still wet after each wash.
  3. Avoid water – only wash your hands when you need to.
  4. Take an allergy patch test and be sure to keep away from any of those allergens.

I see many patients whose lives are deeply affected by hand eczema and I fully empathize with how frustrating it can be when you’re fixed in a career that demands you have constant contact with water. But I hope that with more treatments and better daily practices, patients will be able to improve their quality of life and in time, mental health.

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