Stress-Related Eczema on Hands: What Causes It and How to Prevent It

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Eczema is a chronic skin condition that affects millions of people around the world. Stress-related eczema on the hands is a specific type of eczema that is triggered or worsened by stress. This condition can cause discomfort, pain, and embarrassment, leading to a decrease in the quality of life of those affected. 

In this blog post, we will discuss stress-related eczema on hands, its symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. We will also explore the importance of nervous system regulation in managing stress-related eczema and maintaining healthy skin.

What Is Stress-Related Eczema on Hands?

Stress-related eczema on hands, also known as hand dermatitis or hand eczema, is a type of eczema (atopic dermatitis) that is triggered or worsened by stress. It is a common skin condition that affects the hands and fingers and is characterized by redness, inflammation, itching, dryness, and sometimes blistering. There can be different types of eczema such as atopic eczema, dyshidrotic eczema, and hand eczema, etc as per the national eczema association.

Hand eczema can be acute or chronic, and its severity can vary from mild to severe. It can also have a significant impact on a person’s daily life, especially if their work requires frequent hand washing or exposure to irritants and allergens.

How Does Stress Trigger Eczema on Hands?

Although the exact cause of eczema is uncertain, studies have demonstrated that stress, as well as other factors such as hay fever, can trigger or exacerbate eczema flare up.

Stress triggers the release of stress hormones such as cortisol that affect the immune system and trigger inflammation. In individuals with eczema, this inflammation can cause the skin to become more sensitive and prone to flare-ups. Stress can also cause us to engage in behaviors with sensitive skin that can worsen eczema, such as scratching and rubbing. This can further irritate the skin, leading to more inflammation and worsening of symptoms.

Stress can also affect the skin barrier function. The skin barrier is the outermost layer of the skin that helps to protect the skin from external irritants and moisture loss from dry skin. When we experience stress, our skin barrier function can become compromised, leading to increased moisture loss and skin dryness. This can make eczema symptoms worse.

Furthermore, when we experience stress, our body’s sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is activated. The SNS is responsible for the “fight or flight” response, which prepares our body to respond to a threat. During this response, blood flow is redirected away from the skin and towards the muscles to prepare for action. This can cause the skin to become pale and cool, reducing blood flow and oxygen supply to the skin.

Reduced blood flow and oxygen supply psychological stress can lead to poor skin healing and tissue damage. Moreover, the activation of the SNS during stress leads to the release of cortisol, which can further worsen inflammation and exacerbate eczema symptoms.

In addition to the physiological effects of stress on the skin, stress can also lead to behaviors that can worsen eczema symptoms. For example, stress can cause us to engage in unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, drinking alcohol, and consuming unhealthy foods. These behaviors can further compromise the immune system and skin barrier function, leading to more severe eczema symptoms.

What Are the Symptoms of Stress-Related Eczema on Hands?

The symptoms of stress-related eczema on hands are similar to those of other types of eczema. These symptoms include:

  • Dry, itchy, and red skin
  • Thickened, scaly skin
  • Cracks or fissures in the skin
  • Blisters or vesicles
  • Swelling and inflammation

How Do I Know If My Eczema/Skin Condition Is Stress-Related?

Stress is a common trigger for many eczema flare-ups. Stress-related eczema on the hands can be challenging to diagnose as it shares symptoms with other forms of eczema. Therefore, it’s essential to understand the diagnostic process to identify if your eczema is stress-related or not.

The first step in diagnosing stress-related eczema on hands is a physical examination conducted by a doctor. During this exam, the doctor will look at the affected areas and evaluate the severity of the symptoms. The doctor may also ask questions about the symptoms, such as when they first appeared, whether they come and go, and what makes them worse.

In addition to a physical examination, the doctor may also review the patient’s medical history. They may ask about any previous skin conditions, family history of eczema, allergies, or other underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to the symptoms.

In some cases, the doctor may perform patch testing to rule out other types of eczema. Patch testing involves applying small amounts of allergens to the skin to determine if the individual has an allergic reaction. This can help determine whether the symptoms are related to an underlying allergy or not.

It’s essential to communicate with your doctor about any stress or anxiety you may be experiencing and how it may be affecting your skin condition. Stress can have a significant impact on the body and can exacerbate eczema symptoms. Therefore, discussing stress and anxiety with your doctor can help them develop an effective treatment plan.

Are There Any Natural Remedies for Stress-Related Eczema on Hands? 

This is a common question for individuals looking for alternatives to traditional medications. While there is no known cure for eczema, natural remedies may help to alleviate symptoms and reduce flare-ups. Here are some natural remedies that can be beneficial for managing stress-related eczema on hands.

Herbal Treatments

Herbal treatments have long been recognized for their potential to address various health conditions, including eczema. Chamomile is one such herb that has gained popularity in recent times due to its potent anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce skin irritation and inflammation. Several studies have established the effectiveness of chamomile in managing eczema symptoms. For instance, a study conducted by the National Institute of Health demonstrated that chamomile cream was effective in reducing eczema symptoms.

Calendula is another herb that is useful in managing eczema. This herb is known to improve skin hydration and reduce inflammation, making it an ideal remedy for eczema-prone skin. Research has also revealed that calendula can help accelerate wound healing and soothe skin irritation, further highlighting its potential as a natural remedy for eczema.

When using herbal treatments for eczema, it’s essential to use them appropriately and with caution. While herbs are generally safe, they may interact with other medications or have side effects, especially when used in excessive amounts.

Dietary Changes

In addition to herbal treatments, dietary changes can also play a role in reducing stress-related eczema symptoms. Consuming foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and walnuts, has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects on the body. By reducing inflammation, these foods can help alleviate eczema symptoms.

Another dietary change that can be beneficial for people with eczema is incorporating probiotics into one’s diet. Probiotics are live bacteria that can help improve gut health and reduce inflammation. They can be found in fermented foods such as yogurt and kefir. In addition to reducing inflammation, probiotics have also been shown to improve the skin’s barrier function, which can be particularly helpful for those with eczema.

Nervous System Regulation

Nervous system regulation techniques can effectively manage and prevent stress-related eczema, as chronic stress triggers eczema flare-ups. Stress management plays a crucial role in managing eczema symptoms, as the activation of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) during stress leads to inflammation and worsens eczema symptoms. 

Nervous system regulation techniques activate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which counters the effects of the SNS. These techniques can work as natural remedies in several ways, such as reducing inflammation and improving skin health, relaxing the body and mind, preventing stress-related eczema flare-ups, improving sleep quality, and boosting immunity. 

How to Prevent Stress Related Eczema on Hands from Coming Back

Stress-related eczema on the hands can be prevented through a combination of strategies that focus on maintaining healthy skin, identifying and avoiding eczema triggers, and practicing stress management techniques. Maintaining healthy skin involves keeping the hands moisturized with fragrance-free moisturizers and avoiding harsh soaps and detergents that can irritate the skin. Wearing gloves while performing tasks that require the use of harsh chemicals or prolonged exposure to water can also help protect the skin.

Identifying and avoiding triggers is also crucial in preventing stress-related eczema flares up on the hands. Stress is a common trigger for eczema, so practicing stress management techniques can help reduce stress-related eczema flare-ups. Additionally, identifying other triggers such as certain fabrics, jewelry, or even certain foods can help prevent flare-ups.

Practicing nervous system regulation techniques can also help prevent stress-related eczema on the hands. Nervous system regulation techniques activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which counters the effects of the sympathetic nervous system which leads to inflammation and exacerbates atopic eczema symptoms. By reducing stress and promoting overall health and well-being, these techniques can prevent stress-related eczema flare-ups on the hands. To learn more about nervous system regulation and how to get started, please click here.

Conclusion

In conclusion, stress-related eczema on hands is a common skin condition that can negatively impact an individual’s quality of life. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and management techniques is crucial for effectively addressing this condition. By adopting a holistic approach that includes identifying and avoiding triggers, maintaining healthy skin, and practicing stress management and nervous system regulation techniques, individuals suffering from stress-related eczema can experience significant improvements in their skin health and overall well-being. Remember that open communication with healthcare professionals and exploring a combination of traditional and alternative treatments can pave the way for a more comfortable and enjoyable life, free from the discomfort of stress-related eczema on hands.

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Dr. Linnea Passaler

Dr. Linnea Passaler

Dr. Linnea Passaler has dedicated 20+ years to serving patients, first to a small number of individuals as a successful surgeon and then to thousands of people worldwide as the CEO of a digital health startup. After overcoming her own struggles with a dysregulated nervous system, she created Heal Your Nervous System (HYNS) to empower others in their healing journey. Her combination of neuroscience and somatic work helps those struggling with overwhelm, trauma, burnout, and anxiety to heal their dysregulated nervous systems and thrive.