Cvetkovski RS, Rothman KJ, Olsen J, Mathiesen B, Iversen L, Johansen JD, Agner T. Relation between diagnoses on severity, sick leave and loss of job among patients with occupational hand eczema. Br J Dermatol. 2005 Jan 1;152(1):93-8.

BACKGROUND: Epidemiological studies indicate that occupational hand eczema (OHE) often is associated with persistent dermatitis and prolonged sick leave, which may lead to unemployment. Previous studies suggest that OHE caused by allergic contact dermatitis and atopic dermatitis (AD) carries the worst prognosis.

OBJECTIVES: To evaluate and compare the severity and consequences of recognized OHE in different diagnostic and subdiagnostic groups.

METHODS: Between October 2001 and November 2002, all new cases of recognized OHE were identified from the Danish National Board of industrial Injuries Registry (758 cases). Severity was graded from 0 to 2 depending on the intensity of skin response and the frequency of relapse. To supplement the information from the Registry, we surveyed the study population using a postal questionnaire which included questions about disease duration, sick leave, current occupation and loss of job.

RESULTS: The overall response rate to the questionnaire was 82%. We observed substantially greater severity among those with occupational irritant contact dermatitis (ICD) and AD than for any other diagnoses. Age above 50 years was also associated with increased severity of OHE. Prolonged sick leave due to OHE was reported by 19.9% and was associated with AD and severe OHE. We found a higher proportion of prolonged sick leave among those in food-related occupations (27.2%) compared with those in wet occupations (20.1%) and other occupations (16.5%). Twenty-three per cent reported that they had lost their job at least once during the past 12 months due to OHE. The only strong association with loss of job was food-related occupations.

CONCLUSIONS: Occupational ICD and AD appear to be strongly associated with severity of OHE. AD and severity of OHE were independently associated with prolonged sick leave. Having a food-related occupation appears to be associated with increased risk of loss of job.

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