Pompholyx (dyshidrotic eczema)

Pompholyx (also called dyshidrotic eczema) is a type of eczema that affects the hands or feet. It's usually a long-term condition, but treatment can help control the symptoms.

Check if you have pompholyx

Pompholyx causes itchy blisters on the hands or feet that come and go. The symptoms usually last 2 to 3 weeks at a time.

The first symptom is often a burning or prickling feeling in the affected area.

Pompholyx on the hand of someone with white skin. The palm and fingers are covered with small spots, some of which are fluid-filled blisters.
Fluid-filled blisters then appear on the skin. These are usually very itchy and may leak fluid.
Pompholyx on the hand of someone with white skin. There are several red, sore patches on the fingers and palm.
Pompholyx most often affects the fingers and palms.
Pompholyx on the foot of someone with white skin. The skin underneath the toes looks red, cracked and sore.
It can also affect the toes and soles of the feet.

If you're not sure it's pompholyx

Other conditions can cause sore, itchy patches or blisters on the hands and feet, including hand, foot and mouth disease, psoriasis or athlete's foot.

Do not try to diagnose yourself – see a GP if you're worried.

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • you think you have pompholyx
  • you have pompholyx and the blisters are very painful, leak yellow or green pus or are covered in a yellow-brown crust – these are signs of an infection
  • you have any other changes to your skin you're worried about

Treatments for pompholyx

Treatments from a specialist

Pompholyx is usually a long-term condition that comes and goes over time. Treatment can help control the symptoms.

The main treatments for pompholyx are:

If the blisters leak fluid, a GP may suggest soaking your skin in potassium permanganate solution. This helps dry the blisters and reduces the risk of them getting infected.

If the blisters become infected, a GP may prescribe antibiotics.

If your symptoms are severe or treatment is not helping, a GP may refer you to a skin specialist (dermatologist).

A dermatologist may recommend other treatments, such as:

Things you can do to ease symptoms of pompholyx

If you have pompholyx, your skin may get irritated easily. There are some things you can try to see if they help.

Do

  • wash your hands with warm (not hot or cold) water and use a moisturiser (emollient) soap substitute instead of regular soap

  • wear protective gloves (ideally with a cotton lining) when using chemicals like shampoos, cleansers and detergents

  • wear socks, tights or stockings made from cotton or silk, rather than nylon

  • wear shoes made from leather, rather than plastic or rubber

  • avoid anything you think causes your symptoms, such as cleansers or detergents

Don’t

  • do not burst your blisters

A pharmacist can help with pompholyx

If your skin gets very itchy and it affects your sleep, ask a pharmacist about antihistamines that make you drowsy (sedating antihistamines).

If you take these before going to bed, they can help you get to sleep.

What causes pompholyx

It's not clear exactly what causes pompholyx.

Certain things are thought to cause symptoms in some people, including:

Information:

If you notice something causes your symptoms, avoiding it as much as possible may help keep your symptoms under control.

Page last reviewed: 2 March 2022
Next review due: 2 March 2025