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What is Dyshidrosis?

By H. Colledge
Updated Feb 26, 2024
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Dyshidrosis, which is sometimes called pompholyx or dyshidrotic eczema, is a condition which affects the skin of the hands or feet. Blisters full of fluid, known as vesicles, may develop on the sides of the fingers and the palms of the hands. These vesicles are associated with intense itching, and they may also affect the toes and the soles of the feet. As the vesicles heal, the skin dries, cracks, flakes and peels. The condition tends to recur, and may be treated using steroid ointments, wet compresses, ultraviolet light and stress reduction therapy.

Women are about twice as likely to develop dyshidrosis as men, and the disease is more frequently found in adults under 40. When the condition affects the hands, it may be referred to as cheiropompholyx, and when the feet are involved, podopompholyx. Although dyshidrosis has no known cause, it is associated with a type of eczema known as atopic dermatitis. About half of people who have dyshidrosis also suffer from atopic dermatitis. Both of these skin diseases cause itching and both can lead to the complication of skin infection, requiring treatment with antibiotics.

In some people, episodes of dyshidrosis may be triggered by contact with specific substances, such as cobalt and nickel, or the ingredients in toiletries such as shampoo. Occasionally, a fungal infection in another part of the body can cause a reaction that leads to dyshidrosis developing in the hands. Stress can make the condition worse, as can extremes of temperature. Sometimes, vesicles can enlarge and join together to form large blisters known as bullae. Over time, the nails may become thickened and pitted or ridged.

The main type of treatment for dyshidrosis consists of steroid ointments applied directly to the affected skin, and antihistamine medications to provide relief from itching. In cases where bullae have developed, a dermatology specialist may recommend the application of wet compresses and large blisters may be drained using a syringe. It might also be necessary to take antibiotics to prevent infection from occurring.

Therapy using ultraviolet light may be helpful for people whose dyshidrosis fails to respond to initial treatments, and stress reducing techniques can be beneficial. While in less severe cases the condition may resolve by itself, in many cases it comes and goes over a long period of time. Although the disease can occur in older people, it is less common in later years and, after middle age, the number of episodes may begin to decrease.

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Discussion Comments
By popcorn — On Jul 22, 2011

What is the difference between someone having a bad allergic reaction to metal and having a reaction that constitutes dyshidrosis?

I have always been sensitive to metals and can't wear any jewelry that contains nickel. My reactions were so severe that I would get what appeared to be burn marks after the metal came in contact with my skin. These days it seems like my hands are getting really dry and itchy, and I have been suffering from random blisters on my palms. I am wondering if this might be considered dyshidrosis or just really bad luck with my allergies.

By drtroubles — On Jul 21, 2011

Getting diagnosed with dyshidrosis was actually a bit of a relief for my friend because it meant she was actually able to get treatment for this horribly uncomfortable condition. For my friend she found out she was allergic to the shampoo she was using after it made her hands terribly dry and she started to get small blisters.

The doctors gave her some steroid cream to use on her hands and it relieved the itching she was experiencing. She also combined this with some over the counter allergy medication and all of her symptoms went away after about a week. She has since switched shampoos and hasn't had any other problems with dyshidrosis.

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