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Dyshidrosis

Dyshidrosis, also known as dyshidrotic eczema or pompholyx, is an uncommon skin condition in which very small, fluid-filled blisters appear on the palms of your hands and the sides of your fingers. The soles of your feet also can be affected.

The blisters that occur in dyshidrosis generally last around three weeks and cause intense itching. Once the blisters of dyshidrosis dry, your skin may appear scaly. The blisters typically recur, sometimes before your skin heals completely from the previous blisters.

Treatment for dyshidrosis most often includes creams or ointments that you rub on the affected skin. In severe cases, your doctor may suggest corticosteroid pills, such as prednisone, that you take by mouth.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

The blisters associated with dyshidrosis occur most commonly on the sides of the fingers and the palms, although the soles of the feet also can be affected. The blisters are usually small — about the width of a standard pencil lead — and typically appear in clusters, with an appearance similar to tapioca.

In more-severe cases, the small blisters may merge together to form larger blisters. Skin affected by dyshidrosis can be very itchy or even painful. Once the blisters dry and flake off, which occurs in about three weeks, the underlying skin may be red and tender.

Dyshidrosis tends to recur fairly regularly for months or years.

When to see a doctor

Call your doctor if you have a rash on your hands or feet that doesn't go away on its own.

The cause of dyshidrosis is unknown. However, it can be associated with a similar skin disorder called atopic dermatitis, as well as with allergic conditions, such as hay fever. Eruptions may be seasonal in people with nasal allergies.

Risk factors for dyshidrosis include:

  • Stress. Dyshidrosis appears to be more common during times of stress.
  • Exposure to certain metals. These include chromium, cobalt and nickel — usually in an industrial setting.
  • Sensitive skin. People who develop a rash after contact with certain irritants are more likely to experience dyshidrosis.
  • Atopic eczema. Some people with atopic eczema may develop dyshidrotic eczema.

For most people, dyshidrosis is just an itchy inconvenience. For some, however, the pain and itching may limit the use of their hands or feet. Intense scratching can increase the risk of a bacterial infection developing in the affected skin.

Because the cause of dyshidrosis is generally unknown, there's no proven way to prevent this condition. However, managing stress and avoiding exposure to metal salts, such as chromium and nickel, may help prevent dyshidrosis.

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