Dry, Red Cracked Hands
Dry, red cracked hands become a problem for many people, one that can become quite painful and irritating. Most frequently, a variety of small irritations slowly dry and damage the skin, eventually leading to thickening, cracking, redness and peeling. While most cases of dry, red cracked hands can be cured at home with a bit of care and protection from irritants, severe cases that show signs of infection or do not respond to home treatment should be examined by a health care professional.
Common symptoms of extremely dry hands include redness and itching, inflammation, flaking or peeling skin and areas that crack open and bleed. Skin may burn or sting with hand washing or when applying lotions or creams, or feel tight and shriveled, especially after hand-washing.
According to the Mayo Clinic, most dry skin results from environmental factors that can be wholly or partially controlled. Among these environmental factors is exposure to severe weather, either very hot and dry or cold and dry. Harsh chemicals or detergents can be the source of dry, red cracked hands, as can frequent hand-washing, especially if harsh soaps and hot water are used. These factors, according to the Mayo Clinic, can break down the natural lipid barriers of the skin that typically protect against moisture loss.
Treating dry, red cracked hand begins with replacing lost moisture and preventing moisture loss. Applying moisturizers immediately after hand-washing or bathing, when skin is moist, is essential to the treatment of dry skin. According to the University of Iowa, skin should be partially dried by patting, not rubbing, then moisturizer applied to the skin within three minutes to seal in moisture before it evaporates. Thick ointments or creams are best for treating extremely dry skin, sealing moisture in much more effectively than hand lotions. However, if greasiness is a problem, lotions can be used by day and those heavy creams and ointments slathered on at night and covered with cotton gloves for an intensive moisture treatment.
Once dry, red hands have been treated and have begun to improve, preventing further irritation can help keep them from deteriorating again. The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology says that using waterproof gloves for household or workplace tasks that involve exposure to hot water and harsh detergents or chemicals is important, as is using work gloves to protect hands from irritation while gardening or other outdoor work. Apply moisturizer and warm gloves to hands before going out in the cold to protect skin from the elements, and keep a small bottle of hand cream or lotion in your pocket or purse to be applied every time hands are washed.
When to See Your Doctor
While most cases of dry, red cracked hands can be resolved at home with proper care and protection, if your skin has not responded after two or three weeks of treatment, consulting a dermatologist may be necessary. If the skin becomes swollen, blistered, or signs of infection are present, these symptoms should be evaluated by a health car professional. According to the Mayo Clinic, cracked, open areas on the hands can invite the invasion of bacteria that can cause skin infections, some of which can become very serious and spread to other parts of the body.
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