Eczema is one of the most common skin conditions on the planet. It’s currently believed that this condition affects approximately 35 million Americans, which translates to about 3% of adults and 20% of children. Thankfully, most patients grow out of the condition by adulthood, but it can be lifelong for some people.
Also known as atopic dermatitis or contact dermatitis, this condition is similar to an allergic reaction. It most commonly occurs on the face, hands, wrists, the creases of the elbows and knees, and on the soles of the feet. It is very common in people who suffer with hay fever and asthma, although the link between these conditions isn’t understood.
Eczema is a chronic condition, meaning it is long term and there is no known cure. It can cause severe self esteem and body confidence issues as the condition is usually highly visible. Severe eczema can look very unsightly and cause insecurities. It can also be extremely itchy and frustrating for patients.
There are a number of different types of eczema. The most common is called atopic dermatitis. Others include palmoplantar eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, stasis dermatitis, nummular eczema and dyshidrotic eczema. Each of these different types presents with unique signs and symptoms. Each also requires a slightly different form of treatment.
The exact cause of dyshidrotic eczema is not fully understood. For now, scientists and doctors believe it to be caused by the same thing which causes other forms of eczema. However, this form of eczema does cause a unique set of symptoms which aren’t caused by other variations of the condition. These symptoms make it easily identifiable and diagnosable.
It is thought that genetics and environmental conditions are contributing factors to whether or not a person will develop eczema. However, the main cause of the condition is believed to be the result of an abnormality in the function of the immune system.
The symptoms of eczema occur when the immune system mistakes something which is not threatening as something which is. These substances to which it responds are known as triggers. They do not cause an allergic reaction, but cause the condition to flare up and present similar symptoms to an allergic reaction.
These triggers can vary widely from one patient to the next. For some people, certain types of food can cause flare ups. For others, animal hair or detergents can have the effect. Whatever the trigger may be, the immune system responds with histamine and inflammation. This twofold response causes the symptoms of eczema.
Histamine is a chemical which is used by the immune system to fight off attack from the outside world. Inflammation is a similar response which aims to protect the location of attack while healing takes place. Unfortunately, it is the presence of histamine and inflammation which cause the severe itching and unsightly appearance of the skin.
Unlike other forms of eczema, the fundamental symptom of dyshidrotic eczema is blisters. Blisters are small pockets of skin which fill with fluid and eventually burst and heal. These blisters typically occur on the soles of the feet, the palms of the hands and along the sides of the fingers.
The skin around the blisters can be extremely itchy and very painful. The unfortunate location of the blisters is also uniquely problematic. This is because the blisters can burst accidentally when walking around or simply using your hands. This is very easily done, even for the most cautious of patients.
When blisters are burst in this way, they can cause infections. These infections can then spread from the hands and feet throughout the entire body, causing sepsis. Sepsis can become very serious and can even be life threatening. This is why treating dyshidrotic eczema correctly is of the utmost importance.
Treatments for dyshidrotic eczema include everything from topical steroids to essential oils. Each patient finds that a different treatment works best for them, while it may not work so well for other patients. So, there is a certain amount of trial and error involved in finding the best possible treatment.
The most common way to treat this form of eczema, and all other forms, is with conventional medications. In particular, antihistamines are marketed towards patients with the promise of reducing the histamine reaction of the immune system. Some of these medications can be highly effective, while others are less so.
Topical steroids are also commonly used to prevent and/or treat blisters and the surrounding area of skin. In severe cases, corticosteroid pills or injections may be prescribed by a doctor. However, these forms of treatment can have some nasty side effects which patients should be aware of before using them.
Topical steroids can cause thinning of the skin and increase susceptibility to bruising and/or tearing of the skin. The use of corticosteroid pills for 3 months or longer can lead to serious conditions. These include osteoporosis, hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes. Because most patients with dyshidrotic eczema will suffer from the condition for a number of years, these side effects should be taken into serious consideration.
As these medications can cause a range of unwanted side effects, a growing number of patients have begun to seek out alternative treatments. These include home remedies such as essential oils, and ancient plant medicines such as cannabis.
Many essential oils are known to be very beneficial to the skin. Some are believed to improve the skin’s natural moisture, and therefore counteract the excessive dryness that eczema can cause. Rosehip essential oil is a good example of this. Others are believed to contain antibacterial qualities which can help in preventing infections. Tea tree essential oil is a good example of this.
Another commonly used home remedy for dyshidrotic eczema is an epsom salt foot bath. Epsom salts have been used for hundreds of years to relieve pain and clean wounds. By adding epsom salts to a footbath and soaking the feet for 15 minutes, many claim to reduce the pain and discomfort caused by blisters on the soles of the feet.
One of the most controversial of the alternative treatments used to treat this condition is cannabis. Research has shown that some of the chemicals in cannabis can be hugely beneficial to the skin. Cannabidiol, or CBD, in particular has become an increasingly common ingredient in skin care and beauty products. The reason why many people are using CBD to treat skin conditions such as dyshidrotic eczema is twofold.
First of all, studies have shown that CBD is a potent antibacterial, making it perfectly suited to treating blisters which are susceptible to infections. For patients who suffer from recurring blisters, avoiding infection is vital. The second is based on the fact that research has also shown CBD to be a powerful anti-inflammatory. This means it can reduce the symptoms of the condition and make them more tolerable for patients.
If you are suffering from recurring blisters on your hands and/or feet, the first thing you should do is make an appointment with your family doctor or local physician. Thankfully, this is a condition which is quite easily diagnosed. Following a diagnosis, your doctor will talk to you in much detail about the condition and how best to manage your symptoms.
The most important thing to do in the management of this condition is to keep a diary in which you record any reactions you have. This will help you to identify your unique triggers, and avoid flare ups of the condition in the future. By doing this, you have the best shot at minimizing the impact of dyshidrotic eczema on your day to day life.
It’s also vital to practice good personal hygiene. Washing your hands multiple times a day, using skin care products which are soft and gentle on the skin, and showering regularly can all help. Developing dyshidrotic eczema in and around the sweat glands is common, so cleanliness is crucial in managing the condition.
If you choose to explore alternative treatments, it is important to discuss this with your doctor beforehand. While most are perfectly safe to use, your doctor should always be informed of what you are using. This is so that he/she can best advise you. You may find some of these alternatives to be very helpful, or you may prefer to stick with conventional medications. Each patient is different and must be patient while they discover which treatment is best for them.