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chapped hands

Alternative Names 
hand eczema, dermatitis

Chapped hands are a result of very dry skin. Hands that are chapped are usually:
  • rough
  • dry
  • red
  • peeling
  • cracked
  • sensitive
What is going on in the body? 
Skin protects the body by withstanding irritation. If the irritation is too much for the body, the skin becomes red, rough, dry, and cracked. The skin may also become more sensitive and may sting. Some people have very sensitive skin that is irritated very easily.

What are the signs and symptoms of the condition? 
There are a few symptoms of chapped hands, which include:
  • redness
  • dryness
  • cracking
  • roughness
  • tenderness
What are the causes and risks of the condition? 
Chapped hands occur more often if the person has a:
  • job that requires them to wash their hands a lot
  • history of eczema or sensitive skin
What can be done to prevent the condition? 
To prevent chapped hands:
  • wear protective gloves whenever possible
  • limit the number of times you wash your hands during the day
  • apply heavy moisturiser immediately after drying your hands
How is the condition diagnosed? 
Chapped hands are usually self-diagnosed. Medical assistance to check for other skin conditions such as allergic contact dermatitis needs to be sought if symptoms get worse or continue.

What are the long-term effects of the condition? 
If chapped hands are left untreated, the person may have:
  • difficulty doing things without wearing protective gloves
  • recurrent skin conditions such as outbreaks of eczema or skin inflammation
What are the treatments for the condition? 
When skin is painfully irritated, over-the-counter topical corticosteroid creams, such as hydrocortisone may be helpful. Prevention is the key. Follow prevention tips noted above.

What are the side effects of the treatments? 
Long-term and frequent use of topical corticosteroid creams, such as hydrocortisone, betamethasone, beclomethasone or momentasone, can cause skin to become thinner. It can also decrease the cream's effectiveness.

What happens after treatment for the condition? 
After treatment it is important to apply moisturiser to keep the skin moist. This will help to prevent more skin irritations. Follow prevention tips noted above.

Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 26/04/2005
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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