What Is Dyshidrotic Eczema?

Have you ever experienced a mysterious outbreak of tiny, intensely itchy blisters across your fingers or toes, and wondered what was going on? You may have been suffering from dyshidrotic eczema!

Also known, even more confusingly, as pompholyx or dyshidrosis, dyshidrotic eczema is the skin condition that many people don’t know they’ve got. It can start quite suddenly, get worse, and tends to eventually clear up within a few weeks, leaving sufferers none the wiser as to what was the root of the problem.

It’s also something that tends to come back time after time, with some people more prone to flare-ups than others.

Let’s take a closer look at this irritating and painful condition, so we can work out what might help manage it.

What does dyshidrotic eczema (DE) look like?

DE usually starts on the palms of the hands and the sides of the fingers, or the soles of the feet and toes. It causes the breakout out of lots of tiny, fluid-filled blisters. Usually these are confined to fingers and toes, but can spread from palms or soles to the back of the hand, but rarely to arms and legs.

As the blisters start to subside and dry out, the skin can get cracked and sore, and is vulnerable to infection.

DE can be confused with other skin conditions which cause blisters, such as impetigo, contact dermatitis, and hand, foot and mouth disease, so do get a diagnosis from a doctor if you’re unsure.

What does dyshidrotic eczema feel like?

Even before it shows up as blisters, DE usually starts with fingers, palms, toes or soles of the feet feeling extremely itchy. The itching can drive sufferers to distraction, and can also be felt as burning or stinging sensation.

Once the blisters dry up, the skin can crack, leaving the area feeling very sore, and sensitive to any kind of irritant. Water, soap, cleaners etc can all sting on contact.

What causes dyshidrotic eczema?

It is unclear exactly what causes DE, although doctors have identified various things which can trigger or exacerbate a flare up.

These include:

  • Stress
  • Irritants such as household detergents, sanitiser, soap, chemicals, toiletries
  • Sweat or getting overheated
  • Fungal infections
  • Frequent hand washing
  • Smoking 

How do you treat dyshidrotic eczema?

The main strategy for treating DE is to avoid things that make it worse, and look after the skin so it can heal itself eventually. That means working out what makes your DE flare up, and trying your best to avoid it, which might be easier said than done for some things (ie soap) than others (ie stress), and almost impossible for, say, health care workers who have to sanitise their hands constantly.

Looking after your skin

If you have a flare of pompholyx, it’s really important to look after your skin with appropriate, non-irritant emollients.

  • Keep it clean
  • Keep it dry
  • Keep it cool
  • Wear gloves if you have to
  • Don’t use soap
  • Moisturise with unfragranced, non-irritant skincare products

In the drying up phase of DE, as the skin cracks, it can be very helpful and soothing to use a thick oil-based balm like Skin Salvation to protect the sore skin.

If you find your skin getting worse, or not improving after a week of care, consult your doctor or pharmacist about other options for treating or managing the pompholyx.

Recommended products:

Balmonds Skin Salvation
with hemp and beeswax

Balmonds Cooling Cream
with shea, menthol, aloe vera & lavender

Balmonds Scalp Oil
with tea tree, nettle, borage & rosemary

Balmonds Natural Shampoo & Body Wash
with calendula & chamomile


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