Dyshidrotic eczema is a skin condition characterised by itchy, blistered skin. It can be hard to manage, but how long might you expect it to last?
What is dyshidrotic eczema?
Also known as pompholyx, dyshidrosis or vesicular eczema, dyshidrotic eczema is a frustratingly persistent skin condition. Affecting the fingers and toes, palms and soles of the feet, the characteristic fluid-filled blisters can increase in size individually, and spread as a cluster to affect more skin.
While it’s not often clear what triggers a flare-up of the condition, it does seem to be aggravated by particular substances or circumstances, and these aggravating factors are key to how long an attack will last.
What affects how long dyshidrotic eczema lasts?
The main three deciding factors in how long a case of dyshidrosis lasts are the irritants you might come into contact with, your general health, and your environment. Even if you don’t know for sure what caused your flare, there are a few things you can do which can make a difference to how long it takes to clear up a flare.
Continued exposure to irritants will make the flare worse, prolong it, or even trigger a fresh attack, sometimes before the last one has cleared up. If you have a case of pompholyx, it’s vital to identify what’s aggravating it, especially if it’s something you come into regular contact with (e.g. soap, chemicals, fragrances in toiletries, various metals), and avoid it in the future.
Your general health and well-being could also be a significant aggravating factor for pompholyx.
Stress: if you’re stressed, run down or struggling with other health conditions (including other kinds of eczema), your pompholyx could be harder to shift. Stress is a major factor for inflammation of all kinds, and can trigger or worsen an outbreak of any type of eczema. Unfortunately, such a maddeningly itchy and visible (if on the hands) type of eczema can itself induce stress and anxiety, which can make shifting it much harder.
Sweat: the term ‘dyshidrotic’ refers to disordered sweating, which for a long time was thought to be the cause of dyshidrotic eczema. Although that’s no longer considered the sole cause of the condition, getting overheated or sweaty does seem to be a factor in dyshidrosis flares.
Infection: the condition seems to be associated with an overgrowth of yeast or bacteria on the skin; although the mechanism isn’t clear, it’s sensible to treat any fungal or bacterial infection.
It’s also possible for cracked or very dry pompholyx to get infected during the course of a flare, so keep your skin clean, dry, cool and protected to minimise risk, as infections can prolong healing.
Your environment can play a part in how hard it is to shift dyshidrosis too. If you’re somewhere hot, and humid, the condition can linger longer. Try using cool compresses if your hands or feet are hot and bothered.
Once you’ve identified the culprits, if possible, then you can avoid or take steps to manage them.
If you manage to avoid whatever it was that triggered your pompholyx, are otherwise healthy, aren’t somewhere hot and sweaty, and use nourishing protective skincare, then the little blisters can heal themselves within a couple of weeks, drying out and possibly going flaky or cracking first. It might take a full cycle of skin regeneration (3-4 weeks) for the area to be totally healed.
However, if your skin continues to react to whatever triggered the attack in the first place - whether that’s stress or shampoo, hot weather or nickel jewellery - pompholyx can be really hard to shift. Having two or more triggers concurrently can also make things challenging: if you’re stressed, hot, using a perfumed shampoo and washing your floors with a particularly irritating brand of cleaner, your skin can be battling eczema on several different fronts at once.
Unfortunately, sufferers can find themselves in almost continual cycles of flares, sometimes without a break between them, for months or even years. Identifying your own triggers is key to stopping dyshidrosis.
See our blog How Do You Get Rid Of Dyshidrotic Eczema? for more tips on treating the condition.
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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.
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