Eczema is frustrating, leading to extremely itchy skin. While it’s never good to have it on any part of the body, eczema on the soles of your feet is especially frustrating. After all, you have to wear shoes when you’re out and about.
When eczema on the soles of your feet flares up, your first impulse is likely whipping off your shoes and scratching for relief. Except with eczema, that might actually make the itch worse. Plus, it’s not exactly convenient or acceptable to take off your shoes and commence to scratching during an important work meeting, or while you’re driving your car.
What can you do to find relief? Here’s some information on how to ease this maddening problem and keep it from happening again.
What is Eczema?
Eczema is a group of common skin conditions that affect millions of people.
The particular form of eczema that affects the soles of the feet is known as dyshidrotic eczema. Sometimes, this condition can lead to much more than frustrating itching. It can get so bad that sufferers have a hard time walking.1
Scientists have had a hard time determining the cause of dyshidrotic eczema.
Some experts think it’s related to allergies since many people only suffer from it at certain times of the year. However, it may also be hereditary.
While the exact cause is unclear, it does appear that certain triggers can lead to a flare up, such as stress.2
It is also believed that exposure to heavy metals, such as cobalt, chromium, and nickel, could contribute to outbreaks as well. Chromium is commonly used in the production of leather and paints, while cobalt is found in everyday items, such as zippers and buttons. Nickel is often found in keys, eyeglass frames, and cell phones. Foods such as milk and fish often contain chromium, while nickel is found in nuts, chocolate, and many types of canned foods.3
The most common symptom associated with dyshidrotic eczema (also known as dyshidrosis) on the soles of the feet is the formation of small blisters. These blisters are not only itchy, they can also be painful. When blisters are left untreated, they can open and then form a crust. Over time (often, a matter of weeks, or even months), they can open again and start to bleed. This, in turn, can lead to a potentially dangerous infection.4
Other symptoms of dyshidrotic eczema include redness and scaling of the skin, as well as flaking and peeling.
Dyshidrotic eczema isn’t contagious, and most of the time, the symptoms are relatively mild and only last for a few weeks.
There is no cure for the condition, but if you learn to manage your symptoms, you can get through flare-ups in the least uncomfortable way possible.5
If you have a reason to suspect you have this form of eczema, you should talk to your doctor about the best way to address the problem. While complications are rare, you could be at risk for an infection. Your doctor may run tests to determine whether you have dyshidrotic eczema or athlete’s foot – another troubling condition that can often have many of the same symptoms.
Addressing the Problem
There are several methods a doctor can use to deal with a case of dyshidrotic eczema. The type of action taken will largely depend on the severity of your outbreak. Keep in mind, your doctor may need to try different approaches before finding one that works best for you.
Topical creams or ointments are often used for milder outbreaks. If the problem is more severe, you could need an injection or an oral medication. Antibiotics will likely be prescribed if a skin infection has developed.7
You might be able to find relief through a home remedy. For example, applying a cold compress to the affected area could help reduce itchy skin. Soaking your feet on a regular basis could help you find relief as well. Soak for a few minutes to help dry blisters so they will heal faster. Be sure you’re only soaking in warm water, not hot. Hot water (including hot showers) can worsen eczema.
Once you’ve soaked your feet, immediately apply a good moisturizer. This will help to seal in moisture, reducing dryness and, hopefully, itching. Staying hydrated could also strengthen your skin and keep it from cracking and peeling.8
Following some simple tips could help you lessen the frequency and severity of dyshidrotic eczema on the soles of your feet.
· Set a skincare routine
The stronger your skin’s uppermost layer, or skin barrier, the less likely you’ll experience an outbreak of dyshidrotic eczema. Keep your skin clean, and moisturize regularly. Stay away from fragrances or skin care products that have harsh chemicals, because they could cause skin irritation.9
There is a chance that eczema is related in some way to allergies. Talk to your doctor to see if you’re eating foods that might trigger an allergic reaction, and discuss any dietary changes that could help.10
· Stay protected from the elements
If you live in an area that is predominantly dry, keep a humidifier in your home to help keep your skin barrier strong and well-hydrated. Also, make sure you bundle up appropriately when the weather is cold. Exposing eczema-prone skin to the elements can result in a flare up.11
Wrapping it Up
In most cases, someone with dyshidrotic eczema will only experience symptoms periodically. If you suffer from the condition, your discomfort will usually disappear after a few weeks – possibly sooner, if you see your doctor and follow their advice. And while it is challenging, do whatever you can to avoid scratching your itchy feet. That can help reduce the chances of infection, which can delay healing.
Eczema is a marathon, not a sprint. You may have flare-ups from time to time. But the better you manage your condition, the less discomfort you will experience.