What is Dyshidrotic Eczema?

Dyshidrotic eczema, or dyshidrosis, is a common type of eczema that occurs on the feet and hands. It is also known by several other names: pompholyx eczema, palmoplantar eczema, foot-and-hand eczema and vesicular eczema.

While all forms of eczema result in redness and itching, some forms can be slightly different. This is the case with dyshidrotic eczema, which is characterized by blisters that develop on the soles of the feet and/or the palms of the hands.

The fluid-filled blisters usually last about three weeks, after which they dry and appear scaly. These blisters typically recur regularly and may do so for months or years. This type of eczema is twice as common in women than men, and while other forms of eczema, or atopic dermatitis, may more often affect infants and children, dyshidrotic eczema is usually seen in adults from ages 20 to 40. Half of those with dyshidrotic eczema also have atopic eczema as well.

What Causes Eczema?

The exact cause of dyshidrotic eczema is unknown. However, experts contend that it may be related to allergies, such as hay fever specifically caused by pollen. To this end, an outbreak of blisters may occur more frequently during spring allergy season.

Risk factors for dyshidrotic eczema include:

  • Physical or emotional stress
  • Moist hands and feet from excessive water exposure or excessive sweating
  • Sensitive skin—Those who develop rashes due to exposure from certain irritants are more prone to have dyshidrotic eczema
  • Exposure to metals, such as cobalt, nickel and chromium, which can occur through work exposure or everyday objects and certain foods
  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Very warm, cold, humid or dry air
What Are Symptoms of Eczema?

Symptoms of dyshidrotic eczema are typically:

  • Small, intensely itchy blisters on the toes and soles of the feet, which can often appear suddenly.
  • Pain, redness, flaking, scaling or cracking of the skin
  • Color changes in the nails

Blisters may result in cracks or open areas of skin. This makes those with dyshidrotic eczema at greater risk of skin infections, such as staph infections. Symptoms such as pain, swollen or crusting skin or pus coming from blisters should signal a trip to the doctor.

Symptoms may not be present all the time, usually cycling through periods of remission and flareups. Certain triggers cause a flareup.

How Is Eczema Diagnosed?

In many cases, with a careful skin examination, an experienced doctor can diagnose dyshidrotic eczema. Because the symptoms of this condition can resemble other skin conditions, a skin biopsy may be helpful in confirming a diagnosis of dyshidrotic eczema and ruling out other causes.

Allergy skin tests may help determine whether dyshidrotic eczema may be caused by an allergic reaction. In some instances, blood tests are done to check for an autoimmune cause of the outbreak.

How Is Eczema Treated?

Home treatment includes soaking the feet several times a day for 15 minutes and then applying a rich moisturizer and a skin barrier cream (waterless moisturizer). Moisturizing lotion should be regularly applied, especially after bathing, to treat dry skin as blisters heal. Limiting shower time and avoiding very hot water is also helpful.

Other treatments for dyshidrotic eczema vary depending on the severity of the outbreak. In addition, it may be necessary to experiment with various treatments in order to discover which works most effectively for the individual.

Possible treatments include:

  • Over-the-counter corticosteroid cream to reduce irritation and inflammation
  • Prescription topical steroid, pill or steroid injection
  • Antihistamines to relieve itching
  • Over-the-counter anti-itch creams containing pramoxine
  • Draining larger blisters, which should be done by a doctor to avoid the risk of infection
  • Prescription oral steroids to reduce inflammation
  • UV light treatments, which can reduce itching and calm inflammation.

If you suspect dyshidrotic eczema, request an appointment with an Essex Union Podiatry specialist. We have decades of combined experience diagnosing and treating skin conditions of the feet. We will be able to confirm if you have this or another condition and develop a personalized treatment plan to provide relief.

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The physicians of Essex Union Podiatry are experienced and dedicated professionals trained in various subspecialties of podiatry care. Click on the pictures below to learn more about our doctors.

Jason P. Galante, DPM,

Jason Galante, DPM, AASPS

Nancy A. Kaplan, DPM, MBA, AACHE, FACFAS


Sarah E. Haller, DPM, AACFAS