Dyshidrotic eczema is a type of eczema that produces skin blisters on the feet and hands. These small blisters are sometimes known as “summer finger bumps.”

Doctors may also refer to dyshidrotic eczema as dyshidrosis, pompholyx, foot-and-hand eczema, vesicular eczema, or palmoplantar eczema.

The blisters or bumps that form can be uncomfortable, itchy, and painful. People may feel a burning or prickly sensation in their skin. The blisters are not permanent.

Dyshidrotic eczema involves flare-ups that last several weeks. Although some people may only experience one flare, people usually have repeated flare-ups that may occur from once every month to once every year.

Below, we look at the symptoms, causes, risk factors, and treatment options for dyshidrotic eczema, as well as how diet may impact this condition.

Doctors sometimes call dyshidrotic eczema “pompholyx eczema.”

Pompholyx is the word for “bubble” in Ancient Greek. The condition can produce intensely itchy blisters on the skin that can also be painful or have a burning sensation. These blisters are tiny and deep-seated and may have a similar appearance to tapioca pudding.

Water-filled blisters can appear on the sides of the fingers and may extend to the palms of the hands. They can also appear on the toes and soles of the feet.

People with this type of eczema may also have other types of eczema elsewhere on the body.

Dyshidrotic eczema may occur as a one-time episode. However, it often occurs as a chronic condition that involves repeated flare-ups.

Symptoms of dyshidrotic eczema include:

  • extreme itching
  • burning sensation
  • a sensation of heat in the palms or soles
  • prickling sensation
  • the sudden appearance of small blisters, often on the sides of the fingers
  • painful drying and cracking of the skin
  • swelling and changes to the skin around the nail

The blisters start small and then may grow bigger. They may weep fluid and produce discoloration. They do not appear in other places on the body.

If a person has small, water-filled blisters elsewhere, it may be another form of eczema or another skin condition.

The bumpy blisters on the sides of the fingers may develop as a result of excessive sweating or heat exposure. This is why people sometimes refer to them as “summer finger bumps.”

There is no definitive known cause for dyshidrotic eczema. However, some factors that may trigger flare-ups include:

According to the National Eczema Society, half of those with dyshidrotic eczema also have atopic eczema or a family history of the skin condition.

Dyshidrotic eczema is more common in people under 40 years of age. It is also more common in females.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, other risk factors include:

  • having another type of eczema
  • having seasonal allergies or asthma
  • having an allergy to certain metals
  • having feet or hands that frequently sweat or become wet
  • having a family history of dyshidrotic eczema
  • working with metals
  • being a mechanic
  • working with cement

A person with symptoms of dyshidrotic eczema should see a doctor or dermatologist for a diagnosis.

The doctor will examine the person’s skin and take a medical and family history to determine a diagnosis and treatment plan.

A doctor may also recommend allergy testing to check for specific triggers that may be exacerbating the eczema.

There is no cure for dyshidrotic eczema. However, there are ways to manage the condition. A doctor may prescribe:

Dealing with a flare-up of dyshidrotic eczema can be difficult. The condition is often very itchy and can be painful and bothersome.

The National Eczema Society suggests some strategies for at-home relief, including:

  • washing with lukewarm water because very hot or cold water may irritate the skin
  • using an emollient soap or cleanser instead of regular soap
  • avoiding direct contact with skin-irritating ingredients or products such as detergents and cleansing agents
  • taking antihistamines with a sedative effect that will help with sleep rather than actively treat itchiness
  • draining large, painful blisters with a sterile needle
  • bandaging or wrapping the skin after applying creams or ointments

Stress management can also help prevent flare-ups.

Dietary triggers may contribute to flare-ups for some people. Avoiding these foods can help prevent symptoms.

As a nickel allergy may have a link to dyshidrotic eczema, it is possible that avoiding foods high in nickel may help prevent flare-ups. These foods include:

  • soy products, such as soy sauce and tofu
  • licorice
  • cocoa powder
  • clams
  • cashews
  • figs

An infection may develop as the blisters grow larger and the condition compromises the skin barrier.

Some people may also have fungal infections at the same time as they experience dyshidrotic eczema flare-ups.

If a person with dyshidrotic eczema develops a skin infection, they should see a doctor for evaluation so they can receive treatment.

Some symptoms of a skin infection include:

  • discoloration
  • swelling
  • oozing pus
  • pain
  • warmth

Preventing flares involves avoiding known triggers such as allergens or temperature changes. Other strategies for preventing dyshidrotic eczema and its symptoms include:

  • applying moisturizer to prevent dryness and cracking
  • wearing gloves, socks, or tights made with cotton, silk, or bamboo to allow the skin to breathe
  • removing rings before washing the hands, applying moisturizer, or sleeping to avoid skin irritation

It can be challenging to live with dyshidrotic eczema because it affects the hands and feet.

Some people with the condition may not be able to work during flare-ups. They may also have trouble walking if they develop painful blisters on their feet.

However, it is possible to manage this type of eczema. People with dyshidrotic eczema should talk with a doctor to find an appropriate treatment option.

Dyshidrotic eczema can cause small fluid-filled bumps or blisters to appear on the feet or hands.

Various factors can trigger a flare-up of dyshidrotic eczema. These may include dietary and environmental allergens, stress, weather conditions, and sweat.

A doctor can help people with dyshidrotic eczema find an appropriate treatment option.

A combination of treatment and prevention strategies can help a person manage the symptoms of dyshidrotic eczema.

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