What Is Dyshidrotic Eczema?

Health Writer
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Dyshidrotic eczema, also called foot-and-hand eczema, vesicular eczema or pompholyx, is a skin condition characterized by small, deep blisters most often found on the palms of the hand but they may also appear on the soles of feet. The blisters can be extremely itchy and painful.

The blisters often appear in clusters and some people feel a burning pain before the blisters appear. They usually last about two to three weeks and when they clear, the skin in the area of the blisters can be red, dry and cracked.  Flares range anywhere from mild to debilitating. Because the blisters are accompanied with pain, it can be difficult to use your hands or walk during an outbreak. The blisters often appear intermittently although after middle age the frequency of episodes decreases according to the National Eczema Foundation.

Causes

People who have a higher risk of developing dyshidrotic eczema include:

It most often appears in adults between the ages of 20 and 40, but can occur in children as young as 4 and older adults well into their seventies according to the National Eczema Foundation. It is twice as common in women than in men.

It is possible that dyshidrotic eczema is related to seasonal allergies and if so, it may appear more frequently during spring allergy season.

Triggers

Triggers might be different in each person; however, some common triggers include:

  • Stress
  • Rising outdoor temperatures
  • When hands and feet are wet for extended periods of time
  • Pollen
  • Contact with metals such as nickel and cobalt including wearing costume jewelry, holding keys, wearing clothing with snaps, zippers or metal buttons
  • Coming in contact with chromium salts which is used during manufacturing of cement, mortar, leather and some paints
  • Eating foods containing nickel including black tea, soy milk, chocolate milk, nuts, seeds, asparagus, broccoli, spinach, oats, whole wheat, bananas, pears, canned fruit

To learn what might trigger your dyshidrotic eczema keep a diary. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America suggests tracking what you do, what you eat and when symptoms occur. Knowing what might trigger or worsen a flare can help you avoid outbreaks.

Treatment

There is no cure according to the American Academy of Dermatology however, there are some ways to treat and manage symptoms, including:

  • Prescription topical steroids
  • Phototherapy

If your blisters are making it difficult to use your hands or feet, your doctor can drain the blisters. If sweating is one of your triggers, your doctor might suggest Botox shots to reduce sweating.

There are also some ways you can help relieve the pain and itch:

  • Soak hands and feet in cool water
  • Apply compresses
  • Use antihistamines to relieve itch
  • Wash hands and feet daily with lukewarm water and mild soap. Pat dry and immediately apply moisturizer
  • Take rings off before washing your hands to prevent moisture build up under the jewelry
  • Wear gloves with cotton liners when doing chores that involve your hands being in water
  • Use a humidifier during dry weather to prevent your skin from drying and cracking
  • Treat allergies and avoid known allergens

If you notice swelling or other signs of infection, contact your doctor as an infection can delay the blisters clearing and healing.

See more helpful articles:

Hand Eczema

Three Rashes You Should Not Ignore

10 Things to Know About Adult Eczema

Managing Skin Allergies

Food Allergies: A Case of Mistaken Identity