Background Hand eczema (HE) is a frequent, long-lasting disease with both personal and societal repercussions. Consequently, more information is needed on factors that maintain symptoms.
Objectives In this study, patients with HE were followed for 6 months from the first visit to a dermatologist to identify factors associated with severe disease and a poor prognosis.
Methods Study participants were 799 patients with HE from nine dermatological clinics in Denmark. Severity assessment of the HE was done at baseline and at the 6-month follow-up using the Hand Eczema Severity Index (HECSI) and by patients using a self-administered photographic guide. Additional information was obtained from a baseline questionnaire.
Results At baseline, 60·3% assessed their HE as moderate to very severe using the self-administered photographic guide compared with 36·1% at follow-up. The mean HECSI value decreased from 19·9 points at baseline to 11·2 points at follow-up (P < 0·001). In a multivariable logistic regression analysis, statistically significant associations with severe HE at baseline were older age (P < 0·001), atopic dermatitis (P = 0·01) and ≥ 1 positive patch test (P < 0·001). Being an unskilled worker was a predictor for a poor prognosis at follow-up (P = 0·04), and the presence of frequent symptoms during the previous 12 months was associated with severe initial disease (P = 0·02) and a poor prognosis (P = 0·04).
Conclusions Overall, the disease had improved 6 months after the dermatological examination: nevertheless, many patients continued to have significant symptoms. Dermatologists should pay special attention to patients with frequent eruptions and to unskilled workers.