Dyshidrotic eczema is a common skin condition that causes blisters and itchy skin. Healthcare providers aren’t sure what causes dyshidrotic eczema. Triggers may include allergies, stress and frequently moist or sweaty hands and feet. Effective treatments include at-home treatments, therapies and prescription medicines.
Dyshidrotic eczema is a chronic (long-term) skin condition that causes small blisters and dry, itchy skin. It usually develops on your fingers, hands and feet. Other names for dyshidrotic eczema include dyshidrosis, acute palmoplantar eczema, vesiculobullous dermatitis and pompholyx.
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Dyshidrotic eczema can affect anyone. However, it most commonly affects people:
About 50% of dyshidrotic eczema cases occur in people who have allergic reactions when they touch an antigen. Researchers think that people assigned female at birth may be more likely to develop dyshidrotic eczema because they more frequently interact with certain antigens, like nickel and cobalt in jewelry.
In occupational or clinical settings, dyshidrotic eczema accounts for 5% to 20% of all cases of hand dermatitis.
Dyshidrotic eczema affects the skin around the palms of your hands, fingers and soles of your feet.
Your skin may develop bumps or blisters that look like tapioca pearls. These blisters are typically one to two millimeters in diameter. The blisters may come together to form one large blister.
After your blisters have dried out, they may become scaly and cracked.
Dyshidrotic eczema causes symptoms that come and go. These symptoms may last for several weeks at a time. The most common symptoms of dyshidrotic eczema include:
The skin on your fingers, hands and feet may thicken if you scratch them frequently. Large blisters or large areas of blisters may become infected.
Healthcare workers and researchers don’t know exactly what causes dyshidrosis. A combination of triggers can cause dyshidrosis flare-ups, including:
In severe cases, dyshidrosis blisters may get bigger and spread to the backs of your fingers, hands and feet. They won’t spread to other parts of your body.
Dyshidrotic eczema isn’t contagious. You can’t spread it to another person.
If you scratch your blisters, you may break your skin, which can lead to infections. If your blisters become infected, contact your healthcare provider. They may prescribe antibiotics to clear your infection.
Your healthcare provider will examine the affected areas on your skin. They may ask if you’re undergoing significant stress or have a personal or family history of dyshidrotic eczema. They may also ask if you’ve recently started using new skin care products, wearing new jewelry or eating new foods.
Your healthcare provider may perform several tests to confirm their diagnosis or rule out conditions that look similar to dyshidrotic eczema, including contact dermatitis, bullous pemphigoid and hand, foot and mouth disease. The tests may include:
For many people, getting rid of dyshidrotic eczema starts with an at-home skin care routine. Home care may include:
Your healthcare provider may recommend over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as topical corticosteroid creams or ointments that you rub directly on your skin. They may also recommend oral antihistamine pills, including fexofenadine (Allegra®) or cetirizine (Zyrtec®), that you swallow with water. These medications help reduce inflammation and itching.
In more severe cases of dyshidrotic eczema, your healthcare provider may prescribe or recommend the following medications or treatments to help relieve your symptoms:
Your body is unique. You may respond well to an at-home skin care routine and OTC medications, or you may require prescription-strength corticosteroid creams or ointments, like clobetasol (Cormax®).
Dyshidrotic eczema usually goes away with treatment, but it may come back later. You may need to follow a specific skin care routine at home or continue using medication to reduce your symptoms.
You can’t prevent dyshidrotic eczema. It’s a chronic medical condition that may come and go throughout your life.
If you have dyshidrotic eczema, you can take action to reduce your likelihood of flare-ups. A good skin care routine and medicines such as antihistamines can help you manage your symptoms. Other therapies, including phototherapy, can help as needed.
Many people live with dyshidrotic eczema, though it can be challenging.
You may have dyshidrotic eczema once and then never have it again, or it may come and go throughout your life. There may be times when your dyshidrotic eczema disappears. These times are called remission periods. A good skin care routine and treatment aim to prevent flare-ups and extend remission periods.
Be sure to avoid anything that triggers dyshidrotic eczema, moisturize your skin, take your medicine and follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations.
You can do a few things to make your blisters more comfortable, including:
It can be tempting to pop your blisters. However, it’d be best if you didn’t break your blisters or peel them off. The skin on your blisters protects the deeper layers of your skin from infection.
Call your healthcare provider as soon as you notice blisters on your hands, fingers and feet.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Dyshidrotic eczema is a common skin condition that can be painful and itchy. You may only have it once, or you may have it off and on throughout your life. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have painful blisters and itchy skin. Over-the-counter creams, ointments and medications can treat mild cases of dyshidrotic eczema. More severe cases of dyshidrotic eczema may require prescription medications or other therapies. With a proper skin care routine, you can reduce the impact of dyshidrotic eczema.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/18/2022.
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