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(Dyshidrotic Eczema)

By Karen McKoy, MD, MPH, Assistant Clinical Professor, Dermatology, Harvard Medical School; Senior Staff, Lahey Clinic Dermatology

Pompholyx is a chronic dermatitis characterized by itchy blisters on the palms and sides of the fingers and sometimes on the soles of the feet.

Pompholyx is sometimes called dyshidrotic eczema, which means caused by abnormal sweating, but the disorder has nothing to do with sweating. Doctors do not know what causes pompholyx, but fungal infection, contact dermatitis, or stress may be a factor as well as some ingested substances such as nickel, chromium, and cobalt. It is more common among adolescents and young adults.

The disorder starts with tiny blisters that become red, oozing, and then scaly. Pompholyx comes and goes in attacks every few months or years apart. Pompholyx takes weeks to go away on its own.

Diagnosis of Pompholyx

  • The appearance of the skin

Doctors diagnose pompholyx based on the appearance of the skin and its history of recurring periodically.

Treatment of Pompholyx

  • Wet compresses

  • Corticosteroids

  • Antibiotics

  • Phototherapy

Wet compresses with potassium permanganate or aluminum acetate (Burow solution) may help the blisters go away faster.

Strong topical corticosteroids and/or either tacrolimus or pimecrolimus may help itching and inflammation.

Pompholyx can also be treated with antibiotics taken by mouth and with phototherapy (exposure to ultraviolet light).