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04-11-2010 | Article

Early diagnosis key to curing occupational hand eczema


Free abstract

MedWire News: Hand eczema that develops due to a person's job is less likely to persist if it is diagnosed within a year, research suggests.

This "emphasizes the importance of early diagnosis and interventions," Tarja Mälkönen (Helsinki University Central Hospital, Finland) and team write in the British Journal of Dermatology.

Occupational hand eczema is often a chronic condition, persisting even after exposure to the causative agent has stopped.

"A change of occupation has, in some studies, but not in all, led to better prognosis," the researchers note.

They studied the hand eczema of 605 patients who developed the condition at work. The patients originally worked as machinery mechanics, farmers, and machinists, or were employed in food-related occupations.

The hand eczema healed in 40% of patients and was more likely to heal if patients were diagnosed within a year of developing the condition than if they were diagnosed after 10 years, at rates of 56% versus 21%.

The condition was more likely to persist if patients had skin, and particularly respiratory allergies. While contact allergies in general did not increase the risk for continuation of hand eczema, allergies as a result of chromate, rubber chemicals, and formaldehyde exposure were associated with poor healing of the condition.

The researchers note that 34% of the patients changed their occupation due to their hand eczema and the condition was more likely to heal in these patients than in those who did not change occupations.

Patients originally working in food-related occupations continued to suffer with the condition over the long-term, however.

The researchers conclude that, as most of the signs related to poor healing are easily detectable at early stages, it would be possible to focus "preventive actions particularly on patients at the greatest risk for persistent hand eczema."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Lucy Piper