Also known as dyshidrotic eczema, the key characteristic of this form of eczema is blistering that is restricted to the hands and feet.
What is it?
Pompholyx eczema is a type of eczema that is usually restricted to the hands and feet. In most cases, pompholyx eczema involves the development of intensely itchy watery blisters, mostly affecting the sides of the fingers, the palms of the hands and the soles of feet. This condition can occur at any age but is most common before the age of 40 years.
The skin is initially very itchy with a burning sensation of heat and prickling in the palms and/or soles. This is followed by a sudden crop of small blisters (vesicles), which turn into bigger weepy blisters and can become infected, causing redness, pain, swelling and pustules. There is often subsequent peeling as the skin dries out, and then the skin can become red and dry with painful cracks (skin fissures). Pompholyx eczema can also affect the nail folds and skin around the nails causing swelling (paronychia).
What causes it?
The exact causes of pompholyx eczema are not known, although it is thought that factors such as emotional tension, sensitivity to metal compounds (such as nickel, cobalt or chromate), heat and sweating can aggravate this condition. Fifty percent of people with pompholyx have atopic eczema as well, or a family history of atopic eczema. Pompholyx eczema can coexist with fungal infections, so assessment should include checking for the presence of any fungal infection on the hands and feet.
The hands and feet, where pompholyx commonly occurs, are areas of the body that are also prone to contact dermatitis (also called contact eczema). This can take one of two forms – irritant contact dermatitis or allergic contact dermatitis. A reaction could be the result of contact with potential irritants such as soap, detergents, solvents, acids/alkalis, chemicals and soil, causing irritant contact dermatitis. Or there could be an allergic reaction to a substance that is not commonly regarded as an irritant, such as rubber or nickel, causing allergic contact dermatitis.If you identify a pattern, which suggests that your hand/foot eczema may be a contact eczema, tell your healthcare professional as allergy patch testing may be appropriate. You can find out more about contact dermatitis here.
What to do next? Find out about treatment
You can find out about the range of treatments options for different types of eczema in our comprehensive Treatment area of the website. You can also find out more about pompholyx eczema by downloading our fact sheet which you will find under related documents to the right of this page