Foot dyshidrotic eczema, or pompholyx, is a skin condition that causes small, intensely itchy blisters on the soles of the feet and edges of the toes. The blisters appear in flares, typically lasting a few weeks.
Approximately 1 in 10 people in the United States have at least one type of eczema. Dyshidrotic eczema is most common in adults aged 20–40 and more frequently affects females. This type tends to affect the hands or feet.
A person is more likely to develop foot dyshidrotic eczema if they already have a type of eczema or if someone in their family has dyshidrotic eczema.
This article looks at foot dyshidrotic eczema symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment, home remedies, and outlook and answers some common questions.
Foot dyshidrotic eczema typically starts with a burning or prickling sensation of the skin, and itching, before a sudden eruption of tiny blisters appears on the soles of the feet and edges of the toes. These eventually become more prominent blisters that may weep and become infected.
Dyshidrotic eczema can also occur on the hands and edges of the fingers.
Symptoms of foot dyshidrotic eczema can include the following:
- Pain, itching, burning, or prickly sensation: Before the blisters appear, people may experience pain on the skin of the feet. They can also experience itching or an itchy, burning sensation.
- Blisters: A person may develop small, itchy, fluid-filled blisters on the soles of the feet or outside the toes.
- Sweat: People can find the skin where the blisters occur wet with sweat.
- Dry skin: A person may experience dry, flaky skin once the blisters have cleared. The skin can also crack and become painful.
- Dark spots: People with a darker skin tone may develop long-lasting dark spots after the blisters have cleared.
- Infection: If a person scratches their blisters, they may develop an infection. This can cause swelling, redness, and a yellow crust on the blisters.
The exact cause of foot dyshidrotic eczema remains unknown. However, research suggests that the condition is not due to an issue with the sweat ducts, as doctors previously thought.
People who develop dyshidrotic eczema have hypersensitivity to an allergen. The following can cause this hypersensitivity:
- sensitivity to metals such as nickel or cobalt
- irritants such as rubber or leather shoes
- ingredients in skin care or laundry products
- medications, including aspirin and birth control medication
- intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) treatment
- smoking tobacco
- fungal infections such as athlete’s foot
- excessively sweaty feet
The cause of foot dyshidrotic eczema can often trigger a symptom flare. Other triggers that may lead to a flare include:
- closely examining the skin on the feet
- asking questions to try to ascertain when the flares of symptoms typically occur
- taking a complete medical history
A dermatologist may conduct a patch test to determine if a specific allergy is triggering foot dyshidrotic eczema.
If a person receives a diagnosis of foot dyshidrotic eczema, a dermatologist may advise some of the following treatments:
It is possible a person can help relieve symptoms of foot dyshidrotic eczema by using home remedies.
Although a person cannot prevent their foot dyshidrotic eczema, they may be able to prevent flare-ups of symptoms by avoiding any known triggers. Home remedies include:
- using lukewarm water when washing
- washing with mild fragrance-free cleansers
- applying a moisturizer or barrier repair cream to help with dryness of the skin on the feet
- resting and reducing stress
- avoiding scratching
- taking precautions in extreme weather conditions
- avoiding triggers
Foot dyshidrotic eczema can range from affecting a person only once to being a chronic, debilitating skin condition.
People can learn to manage their condition and prevent flare-ups of symptoms by understanding what triggers their foot dyshidrotic eczema. There are several precautions a person can take to help avoid flares.
Below are some common questions about foot dyshidrotic eczema.
Is dyshidrotic eczema a fungal infection?
Dyshidrotic eczema is not a fungal infection, although fungal infections such as athlete’s foot may trigger dyshidrotic eczema. Research suggests a fungal imbalance of the skin can cause a response in the immune system that may trigger dyshidrotic eczema.
Who gets dyshidrotic eczema?
Anyone can develop dyshidrotic eczema, although it is more common in adults between the ages of 20 and 40.
The risk of developing dyshidrotic eczema increases if a person has another type of eczema, has a blood relative that has dyshidrotic eczema, works with metal or cement, has an environmental allergy, or has frequent sweaty hands and feet.
Is dyshidrotic eczema contagious?
Dyshidrotic eczema is not contagious — a person cannot pass it on to another person.
Foot dyshidrotic eczema is a skin condition that causes small, itchy blisters that can create pain and discomfort.
People aged 20–40 are most likely to develop foot dyshidrotic eczema.
Although there is no cure for foot dyshidrotic eczema, a person can try to prevent symptom flare-ups by avoiding known triggers and following advice from a dermatologist. Several treatments are available to help ease the symptoms when flares occur.