What is dyshidrotic eczema?
This common form of eczema causes small, intensely itchy blisters on the edges of the fingers, toes, palms, and soles of the feet. It is is twice as common in women as it is in men.
Because of the association with seasonal allergies, these eczema blisters are known to erupt more frequently during the spring allergy season. The blisters may last up to three weeks before they begin to dry and can sometimes be large and painful. As the blisters dry, they may turn into skin cracks or cause the skin to feel thick and spongy, especially if you’ve been scratching the area.
Deep blisters on the sides of the feet are typical of this type of eczema
Doctors also may refer to dyshidrotic eczema as:
- Foot-and-hand eczema
- Vesicular eczema
- Palmoplantar eczema
There is no cure for this type of eczema, but the good news is, in many cases it’s manageable. And like all types of the condition, it isn’t contagious. You cannot “catch” this condition from another person, or give it to someone else.
What does dyshidrotic eczema look like?
All types of eczema cause itching and redness. But some, like dyshidrotic eczema, look and act slightly different than others. It is possible to have dyshidrotic eczema and another form of eczema such as contact dermatitis, at the same time.
Symptoms of dyshidrotic eczema include:
- Deep-set blisters on the edges of the fingers, toes, palms and soles of the feet
- Scaly, cracked skin
Dyshidrotic eczema blisters can be hard to see on the palms and fingers because the skin is thicker here
It’s important to understand which type of eczema you may have and also your symptoms and triggers, so that you can better treat and manage it. The only way to be sure that you have dyshidrotic eczema, is to make an appointment with your doctor.
What causes dyshidrotic eczema?
Dyshidrotic eczema usually appears in adults ages 20 through 40 but it can also affect children. People with contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis or hay fever, are at higher risk of developing dyshidrotic eczema. Dyshidrotic eczema seems to run in families, so if you have a close relative with this form of eczema, your chance of also developing it is increased.
There are some common triggers for dyshidrotic eczema:
- Moist hands and feet from excessive sweating or prolonged contact with water
- Nickel in everyday objects such as jewelry, keys, cell phones, eyeglass frames, stainless steel items, and metal buttons, snaps and zippers
- Nickel in foods such as cocoa, chocolate, soy beans, oatmeal, nuts, almonds, fresh and dried legumes, and canned foods
- Cobalt in everyday objects such as cobalt-blue colored dishware, paints and varnishes; certain medical equipment; jewelry; and in metal snaps, buttons and zippers
- Cobalt in foods such as clams, fish, leafy green vegetables, liver, milk, nuts, oysters, and red meat
- Chromium salts used in the manufacturing of cement, mortar, leather, paints and anticorrosives
Treatment for dyshidrotic eczema
At-home treatment for dyshidrotic eczema includes soaking hands and feet in cool water or applying compresses for 15 minutes to the affected area two to four times a day followed by a rich moisturizer or a skin barrier repair cream.
For more severe cases of dyshidrotic eczema, a provider may prescribe topical steroids, TCIs or phototherapy. Additionally, the provider may drain the blisters in-office, and/or give a dose of Botox in the hands and feet to reduce sweating and wetness, which are known triggers for this form of eczema.
Dyshidrotic eczema has the tendency to get infected, which can delay clearing of symptoms. If you suspect you have an infection in the area where the eczema appears, make an appointment with your provider.
Atopic dermatitis and contact dermatitis may look like dyshidrotic eczema.
Tips for managing dyshidrotic eczema
There is no surefire way to prevent dyshidrotic eczema. However, good skin care and moisturizing can help strengthen your skin against irritation, so that it doesn’t flare up, or get worse. The most important thing to remember is to be consistent.
Some basic things you can do to help control your dyshidrotic eczema:
- Wash the affected skin with a mild cleanser and pat gently dry
- Remove rings and other jewelry when you wash your hands so water doesn’t linger on you skin
- Moisturize after washing hands/feet or immersing them in water
- Moisturize frequently during the day when your skin starts to feel dry
- Wash your hands or feet immediately after coming into contact with a potential trigger
- Learn to manage stress as it is a common trigger of dyshidrotic eczema
- When possible, avoid rapid changes of temperature and activities that make you sweat
- Keep your fingernails short to help prevent scratching from breaking the skin