Actas Dermo-Sifiliográficas (English Edition) Actas Dermo-Sifiliográficas (English Edition)
Actas Dermosifiliogr 2017;108:261-4 - Vol. 108 Num.3 DOI: 10.1016/j.adengl.2016.09.016
Case and Research Letter
Paraffin Wax Baths for the Treatment of Chronic Hand Eczema
Baños de parafina para el tratamiento del eccema crónico de las manos
J.F. Mir-Bonafé, , E. Serra-Baldrich, E. Rozas-Muñoz, L. Puig
Servicio de Dermatología, Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, Barcelona, Spain
To the Editor:

Hand eczema affects up to 15% of the adult population is a common cause of dermatologic consultation. It has a marked psychological and occupational impact, with mayor socioeconomic implications.1,2 Chronic hand eczema (CHE) is considered to exist when the lesions persist for more than 3 months or the patient presents more than 2 episodes in a year. Five clinical subtypes of CHE have been identified: hyperkeratotic, fissured, dyshidrotic, nummular, and pulpitis,2 although overlap is common. CHE may arise on a background of atopic dermatitis, be caused by contact dermatitis (allergic or irritant), or be idiopathic.

Key factors in the management of CHE include the use of emollients and the investigation and avoidance of possible triggers. Numerous treatment options are available: topical corticosteroids and calcineurin inhibitors, phototherapy, oral retinoids, and immunosuppressants.1–3 However, treatments must always be individualized.

Paraffin wax is a solid hydrocarbon derived from petroleum or coal. It is used in the food and textile industries, as well as in the manufacture of paper and of candles. The dermocosmetic industry also employs paraffin wax as a base for some emollients. The possibility to perform paraffin wax baths comes from the low melting point of this wax (approximately 37.5°C).4,5 Paraffin wax baths provide superficial heat, improving local blood flow and relieving pain6; they have traditionally been used in arthritis of the hands.7 Recently they have also been shown to improve post-traumatic rigidity of the hands8 and ankles5 and to be useful in the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome.6 Paraffin wax baths have also been widely used in the dermocosmetic field in order to improve skin quality through their reparative effects on the skin barrier, acting as a very potent emollient. However, their use in CHE has not been reported in the literature.

We therefore undertook a study to determine the efficacy of paraffin wax baths in the treatment of CHE. Thirteen patients (5 men and 8 women) with hyperkeratotic or fissured CHE, pulpitis, or a combination of these conditions were selected. The mean age of the patients was 63 years. Treatment was performed exclusively with paraffin wax baths, 5 days a week for 4 consecutive weeks.

The device used for the treatment was a RehabMedic temperature-controlled bath measuring 36×26×18cm, with an eliptical design and rounded borders (minimum required voltage, 220V; mean power consumption, 150W).

The treatment protocol was as follows:

  • 1.

    Prepare the appropriate device and blocks of paraffin wax (Fig. 1A).

    Figure 1.

    A, Device and paraffin wax blocks. B, The paraffin wax cut into cubes and placed into the device. C, Temperature around 35°C. D, Liquid paraffin after melting.

  • 2.

    Cut the paraffin wax blocks into appropriately sized cubes to be introduced into the tank (Fig. 1B).

  • 3.

    Set the thermostat to 35-40°C (Fig. 1C).

  • 4.

    Wait 90-120minutes for the paraffin to melt, and confirm that the temperature is optimal for the patient's hands to be introduced (Fig. 1D).

  • 5.

    Submerge 1 hand completely for 3 to 4seconds and withdraw. Repeat this procedure 5 to 8 times until a film of paraffin wax covers the hand, forming a white glove (Fig. 2A). Repeat the procedure with the other hand. If the device is of sufficient size, both hands can be treated simultaneously (Fig. 2B).

    Figure 2.

    A, Introduction of the hands into the device with the liquid paraffin. B, The hand is removed from the tank and the procedure repeated until the paraffin coats the hand like a glove. C, The hands are inserted into plastic bags for 15 to 20minutes. D, Remove the paraffin wax.

  • 6.

    Maintain both hands in sealed plastic bags for 15 to 20minutes (Fig. 2C).

  • 7.

    Remove the paraffin wax glove (Fig. 2D).

Evaluation was performed at the end of the complete treatment cycle using the DermaSat questionnaire, validated by the Spanish Contact Dermatitis and Skin Allergy Research Group (GEIDAC)9; this questionnaire evaluates patient satisfaction after the treatment.

The results are shown in Table 1. Efficacy was considered very good or good in 46% and 54%, respectively. Similar results were observed for comfort and medical follow-up. Impact on the quality of life was considered very positive in 30%, positive in 53%, and fair in 15%. No significant side effects were detected, but 51% of patients considered time consumption to be significant. The overall opinion of the patients was very good in 54% and good in 46%.

Table 1.

Series of Patients Treated With Paraffin Baths.

  Sex  Age  Eczema Subtype  Etiology  Time Since Onset, y  Previous Treatments  Efficacy  Comfort  Impact  Monitoring  Adverse Effects  Overall Opinion 
52  Hyperkeratotic/fissured  AD  >Emollients, topical CS, CI, CsA  Excellent  Good  Excellent  Excellent  Fair  Excellent 
74  Pulpitis  Idiopathic  >Emollients, topical CS, CI, PUVA  Excellent  Excellent  Good  Excellent  Fair  Good 
72  Hyperkeratotic/fissured  Idiopathic  <Emollients, topical CS  Good  Excellent  Excellent  Excellent  Excellent  Excellent 
36  Hyperkeratotic/fissured  ICD  <Emollients, topical CS  Excellent  Excellent  Excellent  Excellent  Excellent  Excellent 
70  Pulpitis  Idiopathic  >Emollients, topical CS, PUVA  Good  Good  Good  Excellent  Fair  Good 
58  Hyperkeratotic  Idiopathic  <Emollients, topical CS, PUVA, retinoids  Good  Good  Good  Fair  Good  Good 
62  Hyperkeratotic/fissured  ICD  >Emollients, topical CS, PUVA, MTX  Excellent  Excellent  Excellent  Excellent  Excellent  Excellent 
85  Hyperkeratotic/fissured  Idiopathic  >Emollients, topical CS, PUVA, MTX, retinoids  Good  Poor  Good  Good  Good  Excellent 
82  Pulpitis  Idiopathic  >Emollients, topical CS  Excellent  Excellent  Good  Excellent  Fair  Good 
10  72  Hyperkeratotic  Idiopathic  >Emollients, topical CS, CI  Good  Excellent  Fair  Good  Good  Excellent 
11  63  Hyperkeratotic/fissured  Idiopathic  1 – 5  Emollients, topical CS, CI  Good  Excellent  Fair  Good  Fair  Good 
12  52  Hyperkeratotic/fissured  Idiopathic  1 – 5  Emollients, topical CS, PUVA, retinoids  Good  Fair  Good  Excellent  Excellent  Good 
13  45  Hyperkeratotic  Idiopathic  >Emollients, topical CS, CI, PUVA, retinoids  Excellent  Good  Good  Excellent  Excellent  Excellent 

Abbreviations: AD, atopic dermatitis; CI, Calcineurin Inhibitors; CS, corticosteroids; CsA, Ciclosporin A; F, female; ICD, irritant contact dermatitis; M, male; MTX, methotrexate; PUVA, psoralen–UV-A.

We believe that these results are very promising, taking into account the good risk-benefit relationship. Furthermore, the impact of the time required to perform the procedure could be reduced by home treatment after training at our center, adapting the protocol to the needs of each patient and each moment in time. We realize that this is a preliminary study with significant limitations, but we consider it to be an very positive initial approximation on which to base more complex studies that could elevate the level of evidence of the treatment and thus, in the future, introduce this procedure into CHE treatment algorithms.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

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Medical, psychological and socio-economic implications of chronic hand eczema: A cross-sectional study
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Please cite this article as: Mir-Bonafé JF, Serra-Baldrich E, Rozas-Muñoz E, Puig L. Baños de parafina para el tratamiento del eccema crónico de las manos. Actas Dermosifiliogr. 2017;108:261–264.

Corresponding author.
Copyright © 2016. Elsevier Espa??a, S.L.U. and AEDV
Actas Dermosifiliogr 2017;108:261-4 - Vol. 108 Num.3 DOI: 10.1016/j.adengl.2016.09.016