Dyshidrotic eczema, or dyshidrosis, is a skin condition in which blisters develop on the soles of your feet and/or the palms of your hands. The blisters are usually itchy and may be filled with fluid. Blisters normally last for about two to four weeks and may be related to seasonal allergies or stress.
The exact cause of dyshidrotic eczema is unknown. Experts believe that the condition may be related to seasonal allergies, such as hay fever, so blisters may erupt more frequently during the spring allergy season.
Doctors believe that you have a greater chance of developing the condition if you’re experiencing a high level of stress (either physical or emotional) or have allergies. Some doctors think that dyshidrotic eczema may be a type of allergic reaction.
You may be more likely to develop dyshidrotic eczema if your hands or feet are often moist or in water or if your work exposes you to metal salts, such as cobalt, chromium, and nickel.
If you have dyshidrotic eczema, you’ll notice blisters forming on your fingers, toes, hands, and/or feet. The blisters may be more common on the edges of these areas and will probably be full of fluid. Sometimes, large blisters will form, which can be particularly painful. The blisters will usually be very itchy and may cause your skin to flake. Some people report that the affected areas become cracked and are painful to the touch.
The blisters may last up to three weeks before they begin to dry. As the blisters dry up, they’ll turn into skin cracks that may be painful. If you have been scratching the affected areas, you may also notice that your skin seems thicker or feels spongy.
In many cases, your doctor will be able to diagnose dyshidrotic eczema by examining your skin carefully. Because the symptoms of dyshidrotic eczema can be similar to those of other skin conditions, your doctor may choose to run certain tests. The tests may include a skin biopsy, which involves removing a small patch of skin for lab testing. The biopsy can rule out other possible causes of your blisters, such as a fungal infection.
If your doctor believes that your outbreak of dyshidrotic eczema is directly related to allergies, they may also order allergy skin testing.
If you’re having a mild outbreak of dyshidrotic eczema, your doctor may prescribe mild antihistamines, such as Claritin or Benadryl, to help decrease your symptoms. Wet compresses can also help reduce the discomfort associated with itchy skin.
Your doctor may also suggest using the following twice a day to relieve itching:
- petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline
- heavy creams, such as Lubriderm or Eucerin
- mineral oil
- steroid or corticosteroid ointments
If you’re having a severe outbreak of dyshidrotic eczema, your doctor may suggest other treatment options, including:
- ultraviolet light therapy
- steroid pills such as oral prednisone
- coal tar preparations, such as Denorex and T/Gel
- (rarely) immune-suppressing ointments, such as Protopic and Elidel
To avoid making your pain and itching worse, try not to scratch or break your blisters. Although it’s important to wash your hands regularly, you may want to avoid extensive contact with water, such as frequent hand washing. You should also avoid using products that can irritate your skin, such as perfumed lotions and dishwashing soap.
Dyshidrotic eczema will usually disappear in a few weeks without complications. If you don’t scratch the affected skin, it may not leave any noticeable marks or scars.
If you scratch the affected area, you may experience more discomfort, or your outbreak may take longer to heal. You could also develop a bacterial infection as a result of scratching and breaking your blisters.
Although your outbreak of dyshidrotic eczema may heal completely, it can also recur. Because the cause of dyshidrotic eczema isn’t known, doctors have yet to find ways to prevent or cure the condition.