What Exactly Is Dyshidrotic Eczema and How is it Different?

Many people are familiar with atopic eczema but that's only one of several types. Dyshidrotic eczema is another common form of eczema. Some people can have both atopic and dyshidrotic eczema. 

What's the difference between atopic and dyshidrotic eczema? Dyshidrotic eczema appears as blisters and skin irritation on the hands and feet. Atopic eczema can appear on any part of the body.

What Is Dyshidrotic Eczema?

Your doctor may refer to this condition by several names. They include: foot-and-hand eczema, pompholyx eczema, vesicular eczema, and palmoplantar eczema. These are all interchangeable medical terms for the same type of eczema, which we'll simply call "dyshidrotic eczema" for the purpose of this article. 

Dyshidrotic eczema often presents as painful blisters on hands, fingers, inside the webs of fingers, soles of the foot and between the toes. Blisters might be itchy or painful and often the skin can become rough and crack as the blisters heal. Flare-ups may last several weeks.

This type of eczema is most common in women, though anyone can develop the condition. Many sufferers have their first outbreak between the ages of 20 and 40. Someone with atopic eczema or other types of eczema can also develop dyshidrotic eczema. Like other types of eczema, there is no cure. However, most cases of dyshidrotic eczema are manageable with knowledge of how to treat and precautions to take to limit flare-up severity.

The condition is not contagious. You should take special care during outbreaks because you're more prone to infection due to open sores on the skin.

Signs and Symptoms of Dyshidrotic Eczema

Dyshidrotic eczema presents slightly different than other forms of eczema because the blisters are unique to this form. You can have other forms of eczema on your hands and feet. The best way to determine the type of eczema or skin condition you have is by seeing your doctor for a proper diagnosis. Some people might have more than one type of eczema. Flare-ups from one kind of eczema can sometimes cause the other type to flare-up as well.

It's important for you to know the type of eczema because there may be separate causes and treatments that will work better for you, depending on the condition.

Some common symptoms of dyshidrotic eczema include:

  • Deep blisters on palms, soles of feet, fingers, in between fingers, in between toes. 
  • Itching or burning sensation where blisters are located.
  • Weeping or sweating around blisters.
  • Drying, flaking skin once blisters are healing.
  • Swelling.
  • Cracking, red, irritated skin as the condition heals.
  • Pain at the site of blisters and as the skin heals.
  • In some cases, the condition may appear on the delicate skin around the nails.

    Blisters are unique to dyshidrotic eczema, though they can also be symptoms of other conditions. Itching, redness, and swelling are common symptoms of many types of eczema. A high percentage of those with dyshidrotic eczema will also have atopic eczema. Fungal infections, such as athletes foot, might be present as well as dyshidrotic eczema, and they should be treated with different types of therapy. 

    A doctor's diagnosis is important to rule out other illnesses which might have similar characteristics to treat dyshidrotic eczema properly.

    Risk Factors and Triggers

    Any person of any age can develop dyshidrotic eczema, though it is more common in adult women between 20 and 40. This type of eczema is more prevalent in those with a family history of eczema of any type. People who have dermatitis or other forms of eczema are also more likely to develop dyshidrotic eczema. This condition is often more prevalent during allergy season and may have some connection with hay fever or allergies.

    Other common triggers for dyshidrotic eczema include:

    • Allergies. Seasonal allergies tend to bring out flare-ups for those who suffer from dyshidrotic eczema. Pollen is a known trigger.
    • Stress. While it's difficult to eliminate stress entirely, high stress periods and serious emotional stress can bring out flare-ups.
    • Metal. Nickel, chromate, and cobalt are the three types of metal most noted for causing dyshidrotic episodes. People with this condition may be extra sensitive to the properties of these types of metals which can be found in jewelry, dishes and silverware, everyday items, and even some types of food.
    • Sweating on hands and feet. This might be an issue of working with gloves or warm footwear or simply overactive sweating which can be difficult to control. 
    • Prolonged exposure to moisture. This is the same cause as sweating but it may be from having hands or feet submerged for too long, either working or swimming.

    Treatments and Therapies for Dyshidrotic Eczema

    There are several treatment options for dyshidrotic eczema, from prescription to over the counter therapies. A good first step is to note when you're experiencing outbreaks, which can help you to narrow down triggers that impact you. You may notice more flare-ups during allergy season or due to specific environmental factors. When possible, eliminating triggers can help you to keep flare-ups to a minimum.

    Some treatment options include:

    • Having Blisters Drained. Your doctor may drain blisters that are deep and painful to help speed healing. This should be performed by your physician in order to limit risk of infection.
    • Allergy Medications. Allergy medication can help to reduce dyshidrotic eczema, as well as your other allergy symptoms.
    • Steroid Cream or Oral Steroids. This treatment may be recommended to reduce severe swelling.
    • Eczema Gloves and Socks. Gloves and socks can be worn to protect your hands and feet from environmental factors that can trigger outbreaks.
    • Eczema Creams. Cream and ointment made for the treatment of eczema can help repair skin and sooth the area.

    For this type of eczema, infection is the largest concern. Keep the area clean and dry and if you see signs of infection, contact your doctor as soon as possible.

    For further reading, you can read Christine's journey on how she deals with dyshidrotic eczema here

    17 comments

    I’ve been batting DE for over 8 years. I have not had even one week without severe itching, sleepless nights, and deep fissures that bleed and take forever to heal. The itching is the worse. I will scratch until my hands are open and raw. I’m new to Honey Eczema but the saturated pads are my best friend. I’ve seen three different Dermatology physicians. I teach Nursing school and clinicals are my worst time. 7/12 months a year. I’m miserable, thanks for educating appropriately and giving hope. As a 36 year nurse, even I need hope everyday and several doses of Eczema Honey!

    Stephanie Julian June 26, 2019

    I had it for 2 years and after going to 3 different dermatologists, one suggested to take a Zyrtec everyday and it worked for me! After taking it everyday for 3 months, I decreased to every other day or whenever I feel itchy….then I only needed it every week and now it’s gone

    Mk June 26, 2019

    Eczema actually stems from the gut because it’s an autoimmune disease. My dyshidrotic eczema is caused by consuming wheat, and my atopic eczema is caused by consuming dairy. Try an elimination diet!

    Jordan June 14, 2019

    I have this type of exczema on my hands. What product of yours would be best for me?

    Jennipher June 11, 2019

    Yes, the eczema honey does help but I have not found it to cure it on its own. It helps from having an infection spread and does calm things down. Best wishes. Dishydrotic eczema is so painful…. have had it for over 3 years and it is a miserable thing. I’ve tried everything.

    L June 11, 2019

    Are any of your products helpful in the management of this type of eczema?

    Nicole E. Marcial June 11, 2019

    I’ve had dyshidrotic eczema on and off for the past four years and mine started while on the birth control pill. Never had any form of eczema before that. If you’ve eliminated all triggers and never seen relief, start to track the patterns of your flare ups. I learned that mine was completely attached to my hormonal cycle. As time has gone on after getting off the pills I’ve seen improvements, but never completely gone. I also learned that apple cider vinegar (diluted half and half) soaks or wraps on affected fingers helped to break the blister cycle and bring on the healing faster. And Bentonite Clay was my best friend for taking down inflammation and making me able to sleep from the itching.
    I’m now working with a functional medicine doctor to get my hormones back into shape. If you start tracking your symptoms and realize it’s hormonal, I would highly recommend doing that. And also avoid the Pill like the plague, it completely wreaked havoc on my hormones and skin and I’m yet to return to “normal”!

    Meghan June 11, 2019

    I have this and Eczema honey worked wonders for me!! It stops the itching immediately. The oils keep the skin moist for long periods of time. It kept my skin inflammation down so that my eczema had time to heal!

    Laura Peck June 11, 2019

    is there any place in mexico where i can find this products? i live in there and it´s difficult for me to travel to the US , but i´m very interested on trying some of these products, i have dyshidrotic eczema actually

    shaian renee June 11, 2019

    I want to type a coherent “thank you” but i can’t see passed my tears. I’ve been traumatized & haunted by the multilevels and forms of eczema my whole life. Literally at the allergist & specialists and they’re all just as confused as I am. No real answers. No real solutions. Eczema is suffering. It is not just allergic it is also autoimmune… the body attacking itself. It’s like every day looking for the boogeyman to show up. One bump, one itch, one random encounter with an allergen you can’t even see, one sudden weather change, one stressful week, you’re back fighting this monster. As a child I was on so many steroids it stunted my growth. Skin allergy tests pretty much say “go live in a bubble.” Allergy shots, allergy free everything. And yes this form gets infected so loads of antibiotics. I even missed tons of school because you can’t be around ppl with open sores, rashes and peeling irritated skin. My soul aches for all of us because you can’t explain how checking into a hotel with something in the environment your skin doesn’t agree with, could trigger a miserable experience. Thank you for fighting for us! Eczema is not just an itchy rash. It’s torture with no cure…It’s time to beat this thing!

    Dr. Tina Parks June 11, 2019

    I work in the restaurant industry and within the past 2 years I’ve been experiencing dishydrotic eczema on my hands. At times it is extremely itchy and painful. I’ve had some luck with using Eczema Honey Co witch hazel and aloe spray to calm the itch and applying the soothing cream to get moisture and healing throughout the day. It’s hard to keep my eczema away for long with constant washing of my hands but this is the method that is currently working for me. When I have days off from work I see the most improvement and am trying to keep this method and heal as much as possible between excessive hand washing.

    Tyler G. June 11, 2019

    I think I got dyshidrotic eczema.I’ve been using eczema honey and seems not helping the area that has blisters.But seeing result on some area that has minor rashes

    Rhiza June 11, 2019

    Thank you for featuring this specific type of eczema! I developed this condition when I was in college, and let me tell you – it sucks. It is very painful between the burning, itching, and dryness. It took me forever to get it diagnosed properly. I saw several dermatologists at different practices, but it wasn’t until one of them did a biopsy that we figured out what was wrong with my skin. I use a thick cream every night, and that controls it a good part of the time. Flare ups happen during times of stress, when I’ve washed my hands too many times, and during season changes in particular.

    Lauren M June 11, 2019

    Interesting

    Joëlle Snelson June 11, 2019

    Thanks for this post. I have been struggling with DE for the past 18 months.

    Tamara June 11, 2019

    I used Eczema Honey during my last outbreak of dishydrotic eczema after my busters drained. I noticed that my skin healed more quickly and stayed moisturized when I put a thin layer of the product under my bandages and reapplied when I felt dry again.

    Kj June 11, 2019

    Would eczema honey co cream be a good option for my pomphlyx/dishydrotic eczema? Desperate to find something.

    Ashley Talladino May 06, 2019

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