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On-The-Job Hand Eczema Takes Heavy Toll

Workplace irritants can lead to sick days, unemployment, study finds

TUESDAY, March 21, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Everyday workplace irritants such as chemicals, soaps and detergents can lead to prolonged sick leaves from work or even unemployment, according to a Danish study.

"Occupational hand eczema has become a disease of increasing importance during recent decades because of its serious consequences, such as frequent eruptions and risk of prolonged sick leave," the study authors wrote.

The disease, characterized by redness and inflammation, can also have a serious impact on quality of life. Previous research named occupational hand eczema as the most frequently recognized occupational disease in Denmark and many Western countries.

As reported in the March issue of the Archives of Dermatology, the researchers had 564 patients fill out an initial questionnaire asking them about sick leave, loss of work, depression, health-related quality of life and eczema severity. They also filled out a follow-up questionnaire a year later.

The follow-up found that 25 percent of the study participants had persistently severe or aggravated occupational hand eczema, 41 percent showed some improvement, and 34 percent had unchanged minimal or mild to moderate eczema. Butchers, kitchen workers and cooks, hairdressers and people aged 25 to 29 were the groups most affected by the problem.

Severe cases, being age 40 or older, and having low self-rated quality of life predicted unemployment and prolonged sick leave (more than five weeks in the previous year) at follow-up. The study also found that patients with occupational hand eczema were at a lower socioeconomic status (based on education and job status) and at high risk for prolonged sick leave, a change of job, and unemployment.

"To avoid prolonged sick leave that may lead to social and economic decline, physicians must try to identify subgroups of patients who are at greater risk of a poor outcome," researchers at the University of Copenhagen said in a prepared statement.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about eczema.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, March 20, 2006
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