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 three weeks and may be related to seasonal allergies or stress.
What Causes Dyshidrotic Eczema?
The 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.
Who Is at Risk for Developing Dyshidrotic Eczema?
Dyshidrotic eczema occurs twice as often in women as in men. Doctors believe that you have a greater chance of developing the condition if you are experiencing a high level of stress 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.
How Do I Know If I Have Dyshidrotic Eczema?
If you have dyshidrotic eczema, you will 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. Usually, the blisters will be very itchy and may cause your skin to flake. Some patients report that the affected areas become cracked and are painful to the touch.
The blisters may last for up to three weeks before they begin to dry. As the blisters dry up, they will 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.
How Is Dyshidrotic Eczema Diagnosed?
In many cases, your doctor will be able to diagnose dyshidrotic eczema by examining your skin carefully. As 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, allergy skin testing may also be ordered.
How Is Dyshidrotic Eczema Treated?
If you are having a mild outbreak of dyshidrotic eczema, your doctor may prescribe antihistamines, such as Claritin or Benadryl, to help decrease your symptoms. Wet compresses can also help to reduce the discomfort associated with itchy skin.
In addition, your doctor may suggest using the following twice a day to relieve itching:
- petroleum jelly like Vaseline
- heavy creams, such as Lubriderm or Eucerin
- mineral oil
- steroid or corticosteroid ointments
If you are having a severe outbreak of dyshidrotic eczema, your doctor may suggest other treatment options, including:
- ultraviolet light therapy
- steroid pills
- 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 is important to wash your hands regularly, you may want to avoid extensive contact with water, such as during bathing or frequent hand washing. You should also avoid using products that can irritate your skin, such as perfumed lotions and dishwashing soap.
What Can Be Expected in the Long Term?
Dyshidrotic eczema will usually disappear in a few weeks without complications. If you do not 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(s) of dyshidrotic eczema is not known, doctors have yet to find ways to prevent or cure the condition.