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.
What Causes Dyshidrotic Eczema?
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.
Who Is at Risk for Developing Dyshidrotic Eczema?
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.
How Do I Know if I Have Dyshidrotic Eczema?
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.
How Is Dyshidrotic Eczema Diagnosed?
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
How Is Dyshidrotic Eczema Treated?
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
If you’re having a severe outbreak of dyshidrotic eczema,
your doctor may suggest other treatment options, including:
- steroid pills
such as oral prednisone
- coal tar
preparations, such as Denorex and T/Gel
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.
What Can Be Expected in the Long Term?
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.