Pompholyx is a form of eczema, also known as dyshidrotic eczema, vesicular endogenous eczema or vesicular dermatitis. It is also sometimes referred to as cheiropompholyx if it affects the hands, or pedopompholyx if it affects the feet.

The condition causes small blisters to develop, usually on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. These blisters are very itchy and watery. They can weep, leading to dry, cracked skin and in some cases, bacteria can get into the damaged skin and cause infections.

The condition usually affects people under the age of 40, but it can you at any age.

The symptoms of pompholyx usually start on the palms of your hands, or the sides of your fingers. It can also affect the soles or toes on your feet. At first you will feel a burning sensation, before small blisters form, which can be extremely itchy.

The symptoms of pompholyx can cause irritation and pain and sometimes the skin may become infected. If you notice increased redness, crusting, pus or swelling on the skin, you should speak to a doctor. They will be able to look at the affected area and determine if you have pompholyx.

Our GPs will be usually be able to identify if you have pompholyx during a video consultation by asking about your symptoms and looking at the affected area.

In some cases, you may be referred for patch testing or a swab test may need to be carried out to make sure there is no bacterial infection present. Our GPs can refer you for these if necessary.

It is not known what the exact causes of pompholyx are. However, there are certain things that are thought to trigger the skin condition:

  • An untreated fungal infection
  • Irritants to the skin, such as soap, detergents, perfumes and some metals, including nickel and cobalt
  • Emotional stress
  • A lot of people also have atopic eczema, or someone in their family does
  • Excess sweating can also trigger the condition – it is common in people with hyperhidrosis
  • Heat

Is pompholyx contagious?

No, pompholyx is a type of eczema so it isn’t contagious, you can’t catch it from someone or pass it on to someone else. In most people, it will clear up after three to four weeks of treatment and often will not return. However, in other people, the condition may become chronic (long-term) or keep recurring.

The treatment for pompholyx may include:

  • Moisturiser (emollients) - these are available without a prescription. However, a doctor will be able to recommend the right type for your skin condition, helping to keep your skin from drying out too much.
  • Steroid cream - this is usually a short-term treatment to reduce inflammation and get pompholyx under control so the skin can heal.
  • Antihistamines – these can help soothe the itching and burning sensation of the blisters.
  • Antibiotic or antifungal medications - if there are signs of infection, the doctor will prescribe medication to deal with this and prevent further complications.

In more severe cases, you may be recommended:

  • Oral steroids - though this is rare.
  • Light therapy - this type of treatment uses lights or lasers to treat the condition and can take a few weeks to take effect.
  • Immune system medications - these can help reduce inflammation.
  • Alitretinoin capsules – these are designed to treat severe eczema on the hands, but will only usually be prescribed if other treatments have not worked before.

There are also some self-help measures and pompholyx home remedies that may help, which include:

  • Minimising contact with irritants – for example, make sure that you are wearing gloves with liners, when using detergents.
  • Cotton or silk socks or tights should be worn if you have pompholyx feet blisters. These materials allow the feet to breath.
  • Wear breathable footwear to avoid moisture build up, or a couple of pairs of socks to soak up any excess sweat.
  • Apply a compress or soak to blisters to soothe the itching.
  • Do not burst the blisters, and try not to scratch them, as this can lead to infection.

You can see a GP online at a time and place that suits you, 365 days a year on any device. Our caring GPs, can take a look at your hands and feet, listen to your symptoms and provide you with a diagnosis and advise on the most suitable treatment. If necessary, they can refer you to a specialist who can look into your condition further.

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