The cause of dyshidrotic eczema can be hard to identify, but is your mood one of the triggers for flares? We take a closer look at the role stress plays in this persistent and uncomfortable condition.
What is dyshidrotic eczema?
Dyshidrotic eczema is a variant of eczema that usually appears on the fingers or toes, although it can spread to palms and soles, and in severe cases, cover much of the hands and/or feet. Also known as pompholyx, dyshidrosis, vesicular hand dermatitis or acute palmoplantar eczema, the condition comes and goes in waves, with months or years between attacks, or one flare cycling round for months at a time. People who are prone to dyshidrosis tend to get repeated flares and can find it very hard to get rid of.
What triggers dyshidrotic eczema?
Dyshidrosis can be triggered by a whole variety of things, from the food you eat to the soap you wash your hands with. If you’re trying to find the root cause of your skin problem, it’s wise to look at a few different areas:
- what your skin comes into contact with
- what you eat
- your environment
- your overall well-being
One part of the puzzle that might not be immediately obvious is your mental health. Stress and anxiety aren’t as widely recognised as triggers for dermatitis as nickel jewellery, scented toiletries or dust mites, but research is clear that your psychological state really does have a profound effect on your skin.
What part does stress play in dyshidrosis?
When you’re under stress your body releases hormones to help your body deal with perceived threat. These hormones include adrenaline and cortisol which in turn stimulate an inflammatory response. This response is the problematic trigger for eczema’s itchiness, heat and inflammation. While feeling anxious or stressed for a short time isn’t likely to provoke a flare-up, the more stress you’re under, and the longer your body reacts with this inflammatory response, the more severe the effect on your skin.
If you’re prone to psoriasis or rosacea, stress can trigger a flare-up. If you’re prone to dyshidrotic eczema, the same can happen. And for many people with skin conditions, the worse their skin gets, the more anxious and stressed they feel, creating a feedback loop of stress, itching, skin damage, more stress that is very hard to break.
Dyshidrosis is a notoriously difficult type of eczema to manage, with cycles of flare-ups persisting for weeks without an obvious cause. If you suspect stress might be a problem for you then it’s worth taking active steps to manage it as best you can, alongside other strategies.
For a more detailed look at the effects of stress on your skin, see our blog Stress & Your Skin.
Recommended products for skin prone to dyshidrosis:
Balmonds Skin Salvation
with hemp and beeswax (for the dry, cracked stages)
Balmonds Cooling Cream
with shea, menthol, aloe vera & lavender (for itchy stage)
Balmonds Natural Shampoo & Body Wash
with calendula & chamomile (to use instead of soap)
Balmonds Scalp Oil
with tea tree, nettle, borage & rosemary (for clean, nourished skin)
If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.
If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.
Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.