Fifteen-year follow-up of hand eczema: persistence and consequences

Br J Dermatol. 2005 May;152(5):975-80. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2005.06494.x.


Background: Hand eczema is a skin disease often with a long-lasting and relapsing course. The long-term prognosis in the general population is unknown.

Objectives: The aims were to examine the extent to which hand eczema had persisted and the medicosocial consequences of the disease.

Methods: In a 15-year follow-up of hand eczema, patients diagnosed in a previous population-based study were sent a questionnaire with 20 questions concerning the persistence and course of the disease, and its occupational and medicosocial consequences.

Results: Addresses were available for 1115 persons, of whom 868 answered the questionnaire. Sixty-six per cent of the respondents reported periods of hand eczema and 44% reported symptoms during the previous year, with no sex difference. Twelve per cent reported continuous eczema. However, 74% of those reporting symptoms considered that their hand eczema had improved; of these more were women than men (78% vs. 66%, P < 0.01). Twenty people, 3% of those who were gainfully employed in 1983, reported a change to another occupation because of their hand eczema, 15 of these reporting improvement after the job change. A considerable need for medical consultation was reported, as was the influence on psychosocial functions among those who had eczema the previous year, e.g. sleep disturbances (36%) and hampered leisure activities (72%). Job changes related to hand eczema and psychosocial impairment were also reported by individuals who had not sought medical help for their hand eczema.

Conclusions: This study demonstrates a variable and poor long-term prognosis for hand eczema in the general population. One-third sought medical care during follow-up, while the vast majority with ongoing hand eczema experienced negative psychosocial consequences. For about 5%, the hand eczema gave far-reaching consequences including long sick-leave periods, sick pension and changes of occupation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Employment
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hand Dermatoses / drug therapy
  • Hand Dermatoses / epidemiology
  • Hand Dermatoses / psychology
  • Hand Dermatoses / rehabilitation*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Prognosis
  • Sick Leave / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweden / epidemiology