An introduction to pompholyx eczema
Pompholyx eczema, also known as dyshidrotic eczema, is a chronic variant of eczema that gets its name from the Greek word for bubble due to its most commonplace symptom, blistering.
It’s estimated that 50% of pompholyx eczema cases take place in those with a familial or personal history of atopic eczema although the condition has been known to arise in other skin infections such as ringworm or athlete’s foot.1
When pompholyx eczema presents itself, it normally appears in the hands, chieropompholyx, or the feet, pedopompholyx. It is believed to be more common in women than in men and usually affects those who are under the age of 40.
The causes of pompholyx eczema
There is no obvious cause of pompholyx eczema but a number of possible triggers have been identified over the years. It is important to be able to recognise these potential causes so that you can take preventative measures in the future to avoid any potential eczema flare-ups.
- Weak immune system: Your immune system is your body’s first line of defence against invading pathogens, allergens or infections. If it is compromised or weakened by an existing health condition, it can become easily fatigued and more vulnerable to outbreaks such as eczema. If you are constantly stimulating your immune system, forcing it to produce inflammatory chemicals, then it will overreact to potential irritants, culminating in an episode of eczema. This overreaction will then exhaust the immune system, inhibiting its ability to respond to certain contagions, making it easier for a secondary bacterial or yeast infection to appear in the affected area
- Poor nutrition: What affects your body internally will often dictate any external reactions, such as an outburst of eczema. Your diet is imperative when it comes to supporting our immune system and your digestive tract. Since around 70% of our immune cells inhabit our gut, it is important to keep them strong and eat foods that will aid, rather than stress your body. If you consume food and drink products such as alcohol, caffeine, processed sugars and fats on a regular basis, then you will be placing pressure on your immune system. These foods are low in nutritional value and can often stimulate the release of histamine, worsening your existing symptoms and possibly triggering an eczema outbreak
- Stress: While the exact cause of pompholyx eczema is uncertain, it is believed that stress could play a vital role in exacerbating symptoms. Episodes of pompholyx eczema sometimes occur during periods of emotional stress, possibly stimulated by the affect that stress can have on your immune system. When the immune system is plunged into a ‘fight or flight’ reaction, it will respond by releasing inflammatory chemicals such as histamine or cortisol, which can then inspire a flare-up of eczema symptoms. Stress can also increase your production of sweat, another potential trigger of pompholyx eczema. Emotional distress can also influence your digestive system, inhibiting the breakdown of food products as well as the process of expelling waste, resulting in higher levels of toxins as well as bouts of digestive issues like constipation or diarrhoea
- Irritants: Pompholyx eczema has been known to appear alongside other eczema variants such as atopic eczema and contact eczema. These forms of eczema are known to occur when you come into contract with potential irritants such as strong chemicals or allergens such as pollen. These pathogens permeate your skin or respiratory tract and trigger an inflammatory response from your immune system, causing eczema symptoms to appear. It might be possible to observe that these irritants also play a role in pompholyx eczema, making it advisable to avoid any hash cosmetics, known allergens or changes in humidity
- Fungal skin infections: Candida albicans is a strain of fungi that inhabits your gut and grows on your skin in small, harmless amounts. When this yeast is given the optimum conditions to reproduce, such as darkness or dampness, it can trigger a fungal skin infection like ringworm or jock’s itch. There are some who speculate that this internal impact on the gut, not only dictates the reaction present in the skin but can trigger an immune response that is responsible for pompholyx eczema symptoms appearing, although further research is needed2
- Hyperhidrosis: Hyperhidrosis is a health condition that is associated with excessive sweating, usually in the hands, feet and armpits. It can arise due to dietary or lifestyle choices, and normally causes feelings of stress and self-consciousness in its sufferers. Eczema symptoms can be exacerbated by hyperhidrosis as sweat can dehydrate the body and the levels of sodium present in perspiration can dry out the skin.3 One study conducted by the Department of Dermatology and Venereology in Athens, Greece found that cases of pompholyx eczema were greatly reduced after treating the patient’s hyperhidrosis first, further perpetuating the link between the two conditions.4
The symptoms of pompholyx eczema
The symptoms of Pompholyx eczema are known for appearing in the feet and hands, making them particularly uncomfortable and debilitating, often restricting movement and impairing the sufferer’s ability to perform simple day to day tasks.
If you are aware of pompholyx symptoms it may help you achieve a quicker diagnosis, meaning that you can start taking steps towards treating any irritation or inflammation.
- Inflammation: Inflammation often appears as the result of an immune response to pathogens, allergens or injury. In eczema, the immune system reacts to skin irritation by discharging a large amount of inflammatory chemicals which are then directed to the affected area, causing it to swell while the chemicals attack potential irritants and try to repair any damage to the skin
- Itchiness: Itchiness is a pervasive symptom across most forms of eczema. In pompholyx eczema, due to the way symptoms manifest in the hands and feet, it can be quite debilitating and damaging to skin cells as continual scratching leaves brittle skin open to infection and infestation
- Blistering: The blisters formed during pompholyx eczema can be quite painful and uncomfortable, usually appearing in the folds of fingers, or the soles of feet. They can swell, sometimes leak fluid and feel very itchy. Take care not to irritate your blisters by scratching them or causing them to pop
- Dry skin: Dry, brittle skin can form during eczema and leave the affected area vulnerable to secondary bacterial infections of a flare-up in candida albicans. It is important to avoid scratching skin during this time as it can only make this worse, causing potential skin abrasions and exposing the sensitive secondary layer of skin
- Stress: The highly visible nature and irritating symptoms associated with most skin conditions can be a source of psychological stress and anguish. This experience can drastically alter a sufferer’s confidence and self-esteem whilst also have a detrimental impact on their immune system, triggering the release of inflammatory chemicals that might only exaggerate their predicament
- Sleep deprivation: The symptoms of pompholyx eczema can often disrupt sleep patterns, placing patients under increased stress the following day, negatively impacting on their symptoms. This sleep deprivation can cause an unpleasant cycle, with stress disturbing sleep and a lack of sleep thereby exaggerating emotional stress, resulting in more pronounced and persistent eczema symptoms.
There are a variety of home remedies available to treat the unpleasant symptoms of pompholyx eczema, many of them passed down from generation to generation.
However, it is also important to consult your GP if you are concerned by any of your symptoms or worried about their persistency.
- Relax: If you are being plagued by uncomfortably and highly visible eczema symptoms, then it is only natural that you might feel self-conscious, anxious and apprehensive. You should try to be kind to yourself during this time though, even if that means setting aside some quality ‘me time’ out of your usual busy routine for activities that you want to do, even if it’s just binge-watching your favourite programme on Netflix or having a peaceful, relaxing bath. You could even try meditation as it has been proven to be very beneficial for teaching practitioners proper breathing techniques and how to take control of their mind and body
- Good nutrition: Your diet can have a great influence on your immune system and your digestive tract, so it is important that you try to take steps to supporting these vital areas of the body, especially since they can both have an impact on your external eczema symptoms. You should be drinking plenty of fluids to make sure that you do not become dehydrated, which can stress the immune system and cause your skin to become more brittle. If you feel the urge to reach for a caffeinated drink, you could try our Bambu substitute or a cup of delicious herbal tea. Include lots of vitamins and minerals in your diet as these can work to repair damage skin cells and support the immune system – most fruits and vegetables contain high levels of both so try to incorporate them into your meals or blitz up one of our smoothies. If you fear you might be suffering from a fungal condition, then it might be best to avoid dairy products and try to increase your intake of anti-fungal foods like garlic and onions
- Avoid irritants: If your shampoo, perfume or nickel-based accessories are aggravating your skin and causing an outburst of eczema then it might be worthwhile avoiding them in the future. Instead of using conventional cosmetics which contain harsh chemicals and fragrances, switch to organic, odourless products that might be kinder to your skin and less irritating. If you often suffer from allergies, then take steps to minimalise your contact with any potential irritants, either by keeping the windows closed to avoid pollen, or cleaning the house thoroughly to remove traces of dust and animal hair
- Apple cider vinegar: Apple cider vinegar is rich in essential vitamins and minerals, imbuing it with anti-oxidants making it very valuable when it comes to relieving skin conditions. It can kill the yeast that inhabit the surface of your skin, exfoliate dead skin cells or be taken simply to give the immune system a boost. If you want to know more about apple-cider, then take a look at the range available at Your Health Food Store
- Coconut oil: Coconut oil is extremely beneficial for the immune system and skin, being a natural anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory agent while being chockfull of anti-oxidants. When applied topically, it can work to keep skin hydrated and encourages the growth of new skin cells, strengthening the epidermis and making it less exposed to pathogens and irritants. Coconut oil can be taken internally as well as externally, and if you are interested in pursuing this option, you could try checking out Your Health Food Store for further information.
We have an impressive range of herbal remedies, aimed at treating the internal and external symptoms of eczema. Nevertheless, should you notice any worrying changes in your symptoms, contact your doctor as soon as possible.
- Neem cream: The beneficial properties of neem are widely regarded, especially when it comes to alleviating and soothing dry, irritated skin. Neem Cream is made from extracts of neem leaves and can be applied topically to the affected area, although it may not be suitable for pregnant women or those who are allergic to nuts
- Molkosan®: Molkosan® is a prebiotic that acts to create a healthy environment for the friendly bacteria that live in your gut. It’s rich in L + lactic acid which can improve your digestion and works as a natural anti-sceptic agent. Since approximated 70% of your immune cells can be found in your digestive tract, it is important to try and support them in any way possible as this might diminish any possibility of potential eczema outbreaks
- Vitamin C: Nature-C is a natural vitamin C supplement, made using organic fruit extracts. You can take Nature-C to support your immune system and enrich your skin, as it is known to contribute towards protecting the skin and works as an anti-inflammatory. Nature-C is suitable for anyone over the age of 6
- Viola tricolor: Viola tricolor can be taken by anyone over the age of 2 and is made using extracts of wild pansy. The tincture has been known to be a rich source of flavonoids, which are crucial to stabilising your blood capillaries. Just be aware that you may need to consult your doctor first before taking this remedy, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding
- Stress relief daytime: If you are feeling drained and despondent due to your eczema symptoms, then it might be worthwhile trying a natural stress remedy, like Stress Relief Daytime. Made using extracts of Valerian, this solution works to gently support your moods, making it easier for you to cope in difficult situations
- Dormeasan®: A natural sleep remedy, Dormeasan® works to restore a proper sleep cycle and is non-drowsy, meaning that you won’t feel groggy or disorientated the next day. Made using extracts of Valerian and Hops, this solution might be suitable if your eczema symptoms are preventing you from getting a good night of sleep, although it should not be taken by pregnant women or those whose medication is affected by alcohol.
If you are suffering from a chronic skin condition such as pompholyx eczema, then you should always consult with your doctor to get their opinion on the situation.
It is likely that they will prescribe or recommend a range of conventional medicines; however some of these may come with a few unpleasant side-effects.
If you notice that your symptoms are not improving or are in fact, getting worse then you should speak to your doctor again about any possible alternatives.
- Steroid creams: If your doctor prescribes you steroid creams then you should take them exactly as directed. Usually you will be advised to apply the creams directly to the affected area in order to reduce inflammation and any associated itchiness. Be aware though, steroid based medication should not be taken over a prolonged period of time, otherwise it can produce a variety of unpleasant side-effects that may potentially exacerbate your symptoms
- Emollients: Emollients are a variant of moisturiser that is often recommended during episodes of eczema. They work by hydrating the skin, easing any symptoms associated with dry, brittle skin. Not all emollients will be compatible with your skin type, and some may even stimulate an autoimmune reaction. If you experience any side-effects then speak to your GP and they might prescribe you another brand
- Anti-histamines: Anti-histamines can be bought over the counter and are normally advised to reduce any symptoms associated with inflammation. However, some anti-histamines can cause drowsiness, making them unsuitable to take if you plan on driving anywhere or operating heavy machinery
- Anti-depressants: If your eczema symptoms are starting to take a toll on your mental health then it is likely that your doctor will prescribe you a course of anti-depressants. These pills work to regulate your moods but often come with a host of unfortunate side-effects, especially if they are not compatible with your hormones. This may mean that you might have to try a few different types before you can settle on a variant that works for you.