Dyshidrotic Eczema: An Overview

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Dyshidrotic Eczema

Some skin conditions can wreak havoc on the quality of a person’s life. Especially for those suffering from dyshidrotic eczema, the subsequent symptoms tend to make it very difficult for that person to function properly in everyday situations. Because of the unique nature of this disease, it’s important to understand its causes and treatment options.

What Is Dyshidrotic Eczema?

Commonly referred to as dyshidrosis, dyshidrotic eczema, or pompholyx, is a relatively rare skin condition that’s categorized by very peculiar symptoms. Sufferers typically develop fluid-filled blisters on the palms of their hands, sides of their fingers and/or on the bottoms of their feet. Those blisters often range quite widely in size and can last for several weeks.

Although dyshidrotic eczema blisters are not extremely painful for most people, there is a lot of itchiness involved. Over time, the blisters may pop or heal, leaving the skin beneath feeling dry and scaly. Unfortunately, the blisters are chronic, meaning they return repetitively throughout a person’s lifetime. On occasion, new blisters will form before old blisters are completely healed.

In extremely rare cases of dyshidrotic eczema, the sufferer’s blister clusters may begin to merge into larger lesions. Such instances are uncommon, but they typically lead to a dermal layer that remains severely red and tender for several days or weeks afterward. As such, the first line of defense is an understanding of the underlying causes and treatment options.

What Are the Known Causes of Dyshidrotic Eczema?

Unfortunately, modern-day scientists are still unsure about what causes dyshidrotic eczema. Usually, the disease becomes closely associated with similar skin disorders such as atopic dermatitis or with commonplace allergic conditions such as hay fever. In fact, studies have shown that chronic dyshidrotic eczema eruptions may be directly linked to seasonal nasal allergies and environmental pollutants.

Are There Any Risk Factors? 

While not everybody with seasonal nasal allergies, atopic dermatitis or hay fever gets dyshidrosis, there are a few lifestyle and/or health factors which contribute to the development of dyshidrotic eczema blisters. Those risk factors include, but are not always limited to, the following:

Extreme Levels of Stress

It has been shown that dyshidrotic eczema is more common in times of emotional or physical distress.

Contact with Certain Metals

Observed among people working in an industrial setting, dyshidrosis sometimes occurs when a person’s skin comes in contact with raw cobalt and/or nickel.

Skin Sensitivities

Those with sensitive skin may develop a dyshidrotic rash after being exposed to certain chemicals and/or irritants.

To mitigate your risk, be sure to read and understand the preventative measures described below.

The Best-Known Preventative Measures for Dyshidrosis

Prevention of dyshidrotic eczema can be very difficult. Because there is no known cause of the condition, healthcare providers have not been able to pinpoint a proven method to keep it from happening. This is especially true among those who exhibit the risk factors mentioned above.

However, by simply reducing stress, limiting the amount of contact you have with certain metals and protecting your sensitive skin, you have a much better chance of avoiding dyshidrotic eczema altogether. Furthermore, proper hygiene and skin care plays an important role in dyshidrotic eczema prevention. An adequate skincare regimen might include habits such as:

  • Using mild, hypoallergenic cleaning products
  • Washing the skin in lukewarm water
  • Keeping the skin dry
  • Applying an oil-free moisturizer daily
  • Wearing gloves, especially if you often come in contact with certain materials

If you or someone you love is experiencing dyshidrotic eczema and the blisters won’t go away on their own after several weeks, be sure to contact a doctor right away. There are more than 200,000 cases of dyshidrosis reported every year in the United States. However, expensive lab tests and imaging are rarely needed for an accurate diagnosis.

Realistic Treatment Options for Dyshidrotic Eczema

Today’s dermatologists have been working hard to figure out the best possible treatment options for those suffering from dyshidrotic blisters. So, while there may be very little that a person can do to prevent dyshidrotic eczema, there are plenty of things they can do to treat it once it develops. In most cases, remedies include the use of over-the-counter or prescription creams and/or ointments that are designed to be applied directly to the affected area several times per day for many weeks.

In severe cases of dyshidrotic eczema, however, the use of corticosteroids may be necessary. Injections of a medicinal substances could be required to prevent more serious health conditions. Furthermore, extreme itchiness and the subsequent scratching may increase a person’s risk of developing a bacterial infection. People with such symptoms should seek treatment regardless of the severity of their blistering or longevity of their condition.

Keep in mind that all treatment options available are designed to clear up the blisters and relieve the itching. While modern-day science continues to search for the cause, sufferers continue to look for at-home remedies that don’t break the bank. For now, the best-known medically-directed treatments for moderate to severe dyshidrotic eczema are as follows:

Corticosteroids

This treatment option is typically used to speed up the healing process, most notably where blisters have erupted. Sufferers are often advised to wrap the target area in plastic to increase absorption of the medicine. 

Prednisolone

As a corticosteroid in pill form, prednisolone (or prednisone) is often used on patients with severe dyshidrotic eczema. It should be noted, however, that long-term steroid use can have adverse side effects.

Phototherapy

Most popular among patients who have not responded well to other methodologies, phototherapy, also known as “light therapy,” combines UV light exposure with customized drugs to make the skin more receptive to the treatment.

Immune-Suppressors (Ointments)  

Tacrolimus (protopic) and pimecrolimus (elidel) medications can serve as a feasible treatment alternative for those wanting to limit their use of steroids. Unfortunately, these types of treatment options can increase a person’s risk of developing a skin infection.

Botox Injections

Botulinum toxin, or botox, is used by numerous doctors to treat the most severe cases of dyshidrotic eczema.

Antihistamines

Carefully administered antihistamines can not only reduce stress and anxiety but can also remove allergic reactions from the immune system.

Some of the treatment options listed above do not require medical attention or a prescription. For example, antihistamines can be bought over-the-counter at any drugstore. Practical self-care, in essence, can both prevent and treat eczematic outbreaks. As it stands, the following are the best-known at-home remedies for mild to moderate dyshidrotic eczema:

  • Regularly using strong moisturizers, especially on susceptible parts of the body such as the hands and the feet
  • Applying anti-itch medications when you experience a skin irritation, especially when you start to develop blisters
  • Using stress-relieving, moisturizing and/or antibacterial essential oils, either topically or in a diffuser, to mitigate the body’s response to upsetting emotional and/or physical stimuli
  • Holding a wet and/or cold compress on the affected area for at least 15 minutes
  • Avoiding contact with known allergens and reactive metals

When to See a Doctor for Dyshidrotic Eczema

Taking care of your skin is important, especially if you have allergies or some form of dermatitis already. Because of that, proper medical attention is necessary if you experience dyshidrotic eczema to the point that it disrupts your life. Luckily, a well-trained medical provider may be able to diagnose the condition by simply looking at your skin.

In some cases, however, a small skin biopsy may be required to rule out other possibilities. For instance, some fungal infections and most types of psoriasis can manifest themselves as blisters that closely resemble the blisters formed through dyshidrotic eczema. In addition, doctors who believe that there is an allergic component to your outbreak may perform a patch test to determine the validity of their assumption.

Your doctor’s conclusions are then used to formulate the proper treatment plan for your unique needs. Sometimes, at-home self-care is all that’s needed to make the blisters go away and stay away. Keep in mind, however, that some bouts of dyshidrosis can occur and recur for several years even if you take painstaking care of yourself and seek medical attention as soon as a blister surfaces.

A Quick Overview of Dyshidrotic Eczema

Dyshidrotic eczema is a skin condition which causes painful, itchy, fluid-filled blisters to form on the palms of the hands, the fingers or on the soles of the feet. There is no known cause as of yet, only risk factors which make people more susceptible to an eruption. Easy lifestyle changes can eliminate the risk for many people.

Furthermore, doctors can treat the symptoms of dyshidrotic eczema with a variety of medical interventions. However, at-home self-care may be used to manage and/or prevent blisters from becoming painful, itchy or infected. And while the condition is not life-threatening, it can significantly reduce the quality of a person’s life if it’s left untreated.

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