Pompholyx Eczema: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

pompholyx eczema

Living with unhealthy skin can significantly reduce the quality of your life. Add in pain, inflammation and/or peeling and you have an instant recipe for dermal disaster. For those suffering from pompholyx eczema, such symptoms are not only common but also difficult to manage. According to recent studies, there are more than 200,000 reported cases of pompholyx eczema each year in the United States. Fortunately, there are several treatment options available for those interested. 

What Is Pompholyx Eczema?

Pompholyx eczema, sometimes called dyshidrosis or simply pompholyx, is a relatively common skin condition that is generally characterized by the presence of fluid-filled blisters on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet. The symptoms of this skin condition can last for weeks, months, years or even for the duration of a person’s life. And while there is no known cure for pompholyx eczema, diagnosis rarely requires lab testing or imaging and non-invasive treatments are available to help manage the symptoms.

What Causes It?

Unfortunately, the exact cause of pompholyx eczema is still unknown, although research continues to undercover more facts about the condition. Assumed by medical experts to be caused by a type of allergic reaction, most cases of pompholyx eczema aren’t life-threatening if properly treated. However, because pompholyx eczema is often associated with certain existing skin disorders, it’s possible that the condition is caused by a reduction in immunities.

In fact, pompholyx eczema is often associated with atopic dermatitis or atopic eczema and is commonly a result of an already weakened immune system. But despite to the relatively small amount of information known about pompholyx eczema, several risk factors have been identified through rigorous research. To prevent bouts of dyshidrotic eczema from occurring or recurring, it’s important to know what puts you at the greatest risk.

The Most Common Risk Factors for Pompholyx Eczema

Unfortunately, even healthy lifestyle choices and proper hygiene cannot save everybody from dyshidrosis or pompholyx eczema. Some people are naturally prone to its development, while others may experience the symptoms thereof as a result of an outside source. Factors which commonly lead to the development of pompholyx eczema can include, but are not always limited to, the following habits and/or behaviors:

  • Extreme amounts of stress have been linked to the development of recurring bouts of pompholyx.
  • Uncontrolled anxiousness can lead to painful and sporadic pompholyx outbreaks.
  • Unprotected and/or hyper-sensitive skin is more susceptible to serious skin conditions like atopic dermatitis, eczema and pompholyx.
  • Contact with certain metals such as cobalt, chromium and nickel often trigger pompholyx eczema.

By knowing the risk factors, you can combat pompholyx eczema outbreaks without experiencing the symptoms and/or the outrageous amounts of discomfort and pain associated with it.

What Are the Symptoms of Pompholyx Eczema?

To be even more proactive about pompholyx eczema, be sure to know the symptoms. Albeit relatively innocuous, symptoms of pompholyx are extremely noticeable and have the potential to significantly reduce the quality of your life if they’re left untreated. The most common symptoms generally include things like:

  • Itchiness
  • Redness
  • Blisters on the soles of the feet or palms of the hands
    • NOTE: Blisters are not always contained to the hands and feet. Furthermore, not all blisters become filled with fluid.
  • Pain
  • Inflammation
  • Scaly skin
  • Peeling

Symptoms can vary widely in severity and are not limited by a person’s age, gender or lifestyle. In fact, pompholyx eczema can present symptoms in anyone regardless of that person’s exposure to risk factors. Moreover, this skin condition can occur at any stage in life and may even become chronic or recurring despite treatment.

Treatment Options for Pompholyx Eczema

Seeking proper treatment for pompholyx is extremely important, especially considering the fact that severe cases can lead to hospitalization and/or scarring. The safest and most effective treatment options for pompholyx eczema typically include symptom management options that are aimed at clearing up the blisters while relieving any itching or pain associated with it. As a result, treatments usually include a wide variety of over the counter (OTC) and/or prescription-grade topical creams and ointments.

The most useful creams and ointments typically include, but are not always limited to, the following:

  • Corticosteroids
  • Prednisone
  • Antihistamines
  • Fexofenadine
  • Dilute Potassium Permanganate (DPP) 
  • Skin moisturizers
  • Anti-itch medication
  • Wet compresses
  • Cold compresses

In general, the use of high-potency, topical corticosteroid medications can help get rid of existing blisters of varying severity. Commonly, doctors will apply the ointment and then wrap the affected area in plastic to increase absorption and promote moisture retention. An application of a moist compress may also be used to expedite or support this treatment option.

For more severe cases of pompholyx eczema, corticosteroid pills such as prednisone may be administered to combat overwhelming symptoms. However, most doctors will warn that long-term use of such medication can have serious side effects. Therefore, alternative treatment options are typically used first to prevent damage to a person’s health.

The use of topical immunomodulators (pimecrolimus, tacrolimus, etc.) may also be advantageous to pompholyx eczema sufferers, as might phototherapeutic sessions which direct UV light to the affected area. Both treatment options benefit the patient without all the harmful side effects of corticosteroids. However, both options can increase a person’s risk for certain skin infections.

As a result, further study is being conducted on the viable treatment choices currently available. On such innovative option – botox – involves injecting botulinum toxin into the skin. And while it’s a relatively new treatment with very few people using it, botox can improve the condition without causing unwanted side effects. Unfortunately, this treatment option is typically only used for extremely severe cases of pompholyx or when other treatments have failed.

If you enjoyed reading this article about pompholyx eczema, you might also be interested in reading about Dyshidrotic Eczema