Pompholyx – an extreme eczema of the hands or feet 12

For years I’ve been suffering with my feet, and for the last three years I have had persistent recurring blisters on my feet. Blisters that were itchy like hundreds of ant bites or wasp stings. When the blisters go they left behind skin some damaged it looked burned and shiny.

English: picture of foot

Picture of healthy feet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Doctors had said “oh it’s nothing, it will clear itself” or “have you tried using moisturiser?” and never really believed me. The problem with our doctors is it is too popular. Too many patients so it is normally about two weeks to see a doctor, by which time the blisters are gone and my soles are just clear shiny skin. Even pharmacists weren’t interested, refusing to sell me anything to help.

(Warning : not so happy foot photo later in this post!)

But in December the doctors finally helped. I saw a different doctor and told her it’s been happening for three years and I knew the name but just needed the medicines. It is a kind of eczema called Pompholyx or Dyshidrosis. She looked stunned when I said I have had this badly for so long, and that at bad times there are that many blisters I limp as I walk. My right foot is worse than the left, so I hobble along a bit crocked. This condition is part of the reason I wear sandals and ballet shoes not wintery appropriate shoes – allowing air to the painful areas helps, I’ll accept freezing toes over increased itching.

It is an itching that just doesn’t go away. I have woken up in bed scratching my feet so hard the blisters pop. I know, too much information for most readers but someone who has this will understand. I was that desperate at times for the itching to end that I would make it hurt instead as a break from the never ending stinging burning torture.

The most effective way I found to cope was sticking my feet in a foot spa washing up bowl of scorching hot water loaded with rock salt and a bath puff. A bath puff is one of those weird little plastic body scrubbing balls, almost like a pom pom made from satsuma netting bags. Puffs always come in little gift sets as space fillers, but I had never found a use for them until this. When your feet get wrinkled and soft from the hot water scrub them hard and a bit too rough with a bath puff. About half the blisters go, but you don’t feel the painful little pops as your skin is waterlogged and a little numbed. Sticking your feet straight back in washes away anything left but the salt has two benefits. Salt dries out scars, so your feet won’t feel all weepy and nasty. The second good thing is it acts as an antiseptic so no need for Savlon or Germoline afterwards. Doctors advice was never pop these blisters but I had to – the itching is so intense.

I shouldn’t have to self diagnose my condition and tell a GP doctor the name of it before being prescribed a treatment. In my case steroid cream and a huge tub of non steroid cream for when I have a mild case of pompholyx. These weren’t available to buy without a doctors prescription, trust me, I have tried.


It is mainly in the bridge area of my soles, and as mentioned is much worse on my right foot. When I get the blisters on my toes it is much more annoying and hard to ignore. The only way I can really describe the feeling is poison. It is like my skin has been injected with poison in each blister, it stings and burns like bleach in a papercut and the most painful blisters appear a pale grey/blue. The liquid is clear, but the more compressed/squashed it gets the deeper the colour tone.

If you have symptoms like these seek Proper Medical help. My opinions are not sensible medical advice.

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12 thoughts on “Pompholyx – an extreme eczema of the hands or feet

  • Emma Peach

    I had a flare up of pompholyx a few years ago when I was very stressed. My mum also had it at around the same age and was quite ill with it, but luckily neither of us has suffered from it again. Steroid cream worked for me but I still have a scar on my hand. I hope thimgs improve for you x


  • Gemma jordan

    Hi I am currently under the dermatologist for the same thing. I have tried antibiotics for 3 months, steroid lotions, methotrexate and am now trying out some different antbiotics for three month. I really do sympathize with you it has been going on too long and affects my confidence. It can become really itchy and flare up worse in he summer. I find my hands and feet sweat more. I hope i can find an end to this. xx

  • Natalie Brown

    I don’t have this condition but, wow, it would be terrible. Even with mosquito bites, I will scratch them until they scab. (Gross – I know) For me, they just itch so bad I can’t stand it. I’m truly hoping you can find some relief.

  • Janice

    I’ve never seen anyone describe this before, it’s something I have suffered, off and on for 40 years and, like you, I’ve been fobbed off by doctors so gave us seeking any kind of help. I do pop my blisters, as you say it is unbearable if you don’t. I’ve never been so bad that I am limping though. I also get it on my hands but not to the same extent. I now have eczema inside my ears and behind one of my ears. However, I’ve seem people with much worse skin conditions so tend to just soldier on. You have given me some confidence to try with the doctor again when it next gets bad. Thanks for sharing this, it has been really reassuring, I hope your condition improves.

  • Suzanne M

    I had this years ago, and like you, it took the Dr. an age to refer me – I had it on hands, feet, up both legs (on legs it looks more like ringworm than the typical tiny blisters of misery), eventually, after several wrong diagnoses, and an infection, I was refered to Dermatologist. A few short weeks on steroid cream and it went away *touch wood* never to return I hope.

  • Sinthu

    I’ve been suffering from this since I was a kid..wasn’t that bad back then but now I’m in college and its at its worst and I’m suffering. I honestly felt everything you put up here. The itching is hell. And scorching hot water is the only temporary remedy I myself have found relieving too.. 🙁 its just terrible. My doctors dont get it too.. one even gave me fungal cream when I tried explaining it wasn’t fungal infection 🙁

  • Matt @ Pickleball

    Great post….and very clear macro shot of your foot! I’ve had eczema over the years but never this kind (pompholyx). Epsom salts baths have helped me in the past but I’ll have to try the rock salts + bath puff.

  • Averil

    Twice I have had this on both hands and feet. Twice I have accidentally cured it, but my experience seems to fly in the face of the medics, so feel free to ignore me!
    The first time was my hands, palms and fingers. I helped a friend tiling a bathroom. The Portland cement type mixture burned the top layer of skin off as I couldn’t be bothered to wear gloves for the three days I helped out. What happened was it dehydrated to top layers of skin. This peeled off a couple of weeks later and took the dead Pompholyx with it. It also didn’t come back despite still being under some level of stress.
    This time round I got it on my feet. It’s merry hell having such itchy feet, I decided to see if I could more safely recreate the skin peeling effect. At 50 my feet aren’t young and beautiful so I decided on two birds with one stone. I figured the worst that could happen was sore feet for a few weeks. I went on amazon and ordered one of those complete foot peel beauty treatments with clear foot bags full of who knows what. I was a bit anxious putting it on and left it 75 minutes when the pack said up to 90. Anyway the first couple of days I watched the little blisters die out, looking angry dark red at first. However one week on the itching is gone and I can see the colour fading as the layer is regrowing underneath without these blisters. I think I should have left this kit longer as it isn’t massively peeling just yet even though I have had seven days. So I will give it one more week then exfoliate and failing that, buy another kit.
    It seems the doctors in the U.K. favour steroid creams etc, but for me this makes the water blisters bigger and my condition more itchy. I will be buying another kit to paint onto the patches on my hands. It’s so itchy on my hands it has been waking me up. I feel I have nothing to lose. My skin is super fair and sensitive but I have lost faith in doctors treatments so this direction isn’t for everyone. Doctors in uk promote moisturiser and this chance healing for me is the opposite. It’s a hardcore dehydration that has lifted off this condition both times. I just wanted to share this as I would like to know If anyone has had a similar experience?

  • Katy

    I got this about 4 years ago, luckily only on my hands. I had blisters covering them and as the blisters eventually dried out a new lot would form around the edge giving the look of ringworm. It was horrible and painful and nothing the doctor gave me worked. I even tried bathing them in apple cider vinegar to help which it cooled it down, but didn’t do much else. Most creams would make my hands oily and it almost felt like my hands were cooking, so I couldn’t keep going with them. Then I tried Aveeno moisturising cream with colloidal oatmeal. I persisted with this for a week and was amazed as the blisters slowly started going and new ones weren’t forming. Now my hands are back to normal although I do need to use the Aveeno a couple of times a day or more still to keep the blisters at bay. A month ago the doctor prescribed me a different cream (obviously cheaper), AproDerm, which is also a colloidal oat cream. This felt oilier and after a week the blisters started reappearing and after two weeks my fingers were looking red and raw with the skin peeling off. So, back to the Aveeno and within a week the burnt look has vanished and my hands look healthy again, no blisters. This does sound like a massive advert for Aveeno, but to me it is a wonder cream that helps my hand stay blister free and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I just wish I’d learnt of it earlier and I hope it helps others.