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Pompholyx (dyshidrotic eczema)

Pompholyx, also called dyshidrotic eczema, is a skin condition where you get itchy blisters on your hands and feet.

The main symptoms of pompholyx are itchy blisters on your palms, the sides of your fingers and sometimes the soles of your feet.

You can get treatments for pompholyx like emollients and antihistamines from a pharmacy. If these do not work, a GP may prescribe a steroid cream.

It's not clear what causes pompholyx, but things that may make it worse include some skin infections, certain metals and chemicals, and stress.

Read more on the NHS website.

The main symptoms of pompholyx are itchy blisters on your palms, the sides of your fingers and sometimes the soles of your feet.

Symptoms of pompholyx

Pompholyx usually starts as intense itching and burning of the skin on the hands and fingers.

The palms and sides of the fingers (and sometimes the soles of the feet) then erupt into tiny itchy blisters that may weep fluid.

Picture of pompholyx.

In severe cases, the blisters may be quite large and may spread to the backs of the hands, feet and limbs.

The skin can sometimes become infected. Signs of an infection can include the blisters becoming very painful and oozing pus or becoming covered in a golden crust.

The blisters will usually heal within a few weeks. The skin tends to become dry and crack or peel as it starts to heal.

Read more on the NHS website.

You can get treatments for pompholyx like emollients and antihistamines from a pharmacy. If these do not work, a GP may prescribe a steroid cream.

Self-care

You should try to avoid contact with anything that might irritate your skin, including soaps, shampoos and other household chemicals.

Use an emollient as a soap substitute and wear cotton-lined gloves when you're at risk of contact with other potentially irritating substances, such as when washing your hair or doing housework.

Do not burst the blisters. Let them heal on their own. If they're particularly big, your GP may be able to drain them.

Medical treatments

The main treatments your GP may recommend to treat the symptoms of pompholyx are similar to those used when treating atopic eczema, including:

  • emollients (moisturisers) – use these all the time and instead of soap to stop your skin becoming dry
  • steroid cream – this reduces the inflammation and irritation and helps the skin heal

Your GP will probably prescribe a strong steroid cream to use for a short period of time to minimise the risk of steroid side effects.

You may be advised to wear cotton gloves at night to help the cream sink into the skin.

You can also try:

  • soaking your hands in a dilute solution of potassium permanganate (1:10,000) for 10 to 15 minutes once or twice a day for up to 5 days
  • antihistamines to relieve the itching and help you sleep if the itchiness is keeping you awake at night

These treatments are available from pharmacies without a prescription. Your pharmacist can advise whether they're suitable for you and how you should use them.

Antibiotics may be prescribed if your skin becomes infected.

Read more on the NHS website.

It's not clear what causes pompholyx, but things that may make it worse include some skin infections, certain metals and chemicals, and stress.

Read more on the NHS website.