There are just so many different things that we suffer from as humans that we are reluctant to discuss with other people! Suffering from itchy feet caused by foot eczema ( Dyshidrotic Eczema ) is certainly one such thing. What did people do about embarrassing problems before they had the trusty internet to turn to for advice, I wonder? At Our Eczema Story, there is no topic too embarrassing because we have literally seen it all before.
When people need help chatting about an issue that leaves them red-faced (or red-footed) then we are definitely the resource for you. In this blog Itchy feet: Is it foot eczema? We will cover every aspect of eczema on your feet. Feet don’t often conjure up images of flowers and loveliness. Usually, when you start thinking of feet you think of hot, sweaty, smelly things, and adding scaly skin, discoloration, blisters, ooziness, and pus of eczema feet doesn’t make people want to talk confidently about it or ask for help. We’ve handled some of the most common questions you might have about itchy feet.
Do People Get Eczema On Their Feet?
While eczema is more common on the face and scalp for little ones, and in the creases like neck, ears, elbows, and knees for older sufferers, anyone can also get eczema on their feet. This is made more difficult by the fact that eczema needs exposure to cool and fresh air to soothe it, and you may not really be eager to get them out for everyone to see. Plus, foot eczema is at its worst in the winter months, and who is waving their bare feet around then?
Different Types of Foot Eczema
There are a number of different types of eczema that you can get on your feet. Each type has a slightly different look and feel, but the treatment will be mostly the same.
Dyshidrotic Eczema is a common form of eczema which causes small itchy blisters on the edges of various body parts like the fingers, toes, palms, and soles of the feet. Symptoms typically include deep blisters on the edges of fingers, toes, palms and the soles of the feet, itching, redness, flaking, scaly and or cracked skin, and pain. Dyshidrotic Eczema normally appears in adults at the age of 20 up to age 40. Although this may be the case, it is possible for children to have as well. Like any form of eczema, there are common triggers for dyshidrotic eczema. Some of these triggers include the following:
- Moist hands and feet
- Nickel found in jewelry and foods
- Fresh and dried legumes
- Canned food
- Cobalt in everyday objects and foods
- Leafy green vegetables
- Red meat
Despite the fact that it may appear as though living life with dyshidrotic eczema may seem quite hard, there are certain things that can be done to make having and living with it a lot more comfortable. Some prevention and manageability tactics that once can practice consist of the following:
- Washing the affected area of skin with a mild cleanser
- Removing rings and other jewelry when washing hands
- Moisturize after washing or immersing your hands and or feet
- Moisturizing frequently during the day when the skin starts to feel dry
- Washing your hands and or feet immediately after touching a potential trigger
- Learning ways to manage stress
- Avoid quick changes if possible to control
- Keep nails cut short
Taking these measures cannot promise a life without dyshidrotic eczema, but these are some measures that can be taken to make having this form of eczema more manageable on a day to day basis.
Contact Dermatitis is a skin rash caused by contact with a specific substance. This said substance can cause irritation to the skin or cause an allergic reaction. Symptoms typically consist of a red rash, itching, dry, cracked, and scaly skin, bumps, blisters, and swelling, burning, and or tenderness to the skin. These symptoms are caused by substances the skin is exposed to that cause irritation triggering an allergic reaction. If the reaction is very severe, it can potentially cause irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis. The most common irritants include solvents, rubbing alcohol, bleach and detergents, shampoos, permanent wave solutions, airborne substances, such as sawdust or wool dust plants, and fertilizers and pesticides. Just like there are common irritants, there are common allergens which include the following:
- Personal care products
- Airborne substances
- Products that cause a reaction when you’re in the sun
Although this may seem like something that cannot be controlled, there are in fact ways to try and prevent and or maintain the skin if you or your child has contact dermatitis. These prevention tactics include the following:
- Avoiding irritants and allergens
- Washing your skin
- Wearing protective clothing or gloves
- Applying an iron-on patch to cover metal fasteners next to your skin
- Applying a barrier cream or gel
- Using moisturizer
- Taking care of the skin around pets
Although there are several things to do in attempts to prevent and maintain contact dermatitis, complications such as infections can arise if one lets it go untreated for too long. Such complications are more prone to be seen in people who have the following occupations:
- Healthcare and dental employees
- Construction workers
- Hairdressers and cosmetologists
- Auto mechanics
- Scuba divers/swimmers (the rubber in the face masks or goggles)
- Gardeners and agriculture workers
- Cooks or those who work with food in general
If you have Contact Dermatitis and you have any of the aforementioned jobs, you must ensure that you take the necessary steps to protect yourself as best as you can to avoid any infections and discomfort.
Nummular Eczema can be seen in any age group. This is the one form of eczema that can appear differently than other forms which leave it to be difficult to treat. Symptoms typically consist of the following:
- Coin-shaped lesions on arms, legs, hands/torso
- Itching and burning
- Lesions that are oozing liquid or have crusted over
- Red, pinkish or brown, scaly and inflamed skin around the lesions
Although this form of eczema is difficult to treat, similar triggers have been observed in several people who have this form of eczema. Some of these similar triggers include the following:
- Damage to the skin resulting from:
- Insect bites
- Chemical burns
- Reaction to inflammation
- Dry skin especially during the winter
- Metals like nickel
- Topical medications
- Topical antibiotic creams
- Isotretinoin and interferon
This form of eczema is difficult to treat but creams are the most common form of treatment. Typically one is given a prescription for a steroid medication to decrease the level of inflammation. Mild and moderately-potent steroids aren’t normally prescribed because they don’t work as well as the stronger steroid creams.
These stronger steroid creams are used because under the correct and proper treatment using this medication, it usually goes away completely. Steroids are not always necessary for this particular type of eczema. Some doctors may prescribe phototherapy, coal tar creams, and or non-corticosteroid medications depending on the severity of the Nummular Eczema. It is key for someone with this type of eczema to be extra careful about how they treat this condition and to always consult their doctor before applying any form of medication.
What Does It Feel Like?
Foot eczema is hot, irritating, and itchy. If you can avoid scratching, usually eczema anywhere else on your body doesn’t have further complications, but eczema on your feet can be a bit different because you are always using them.
The rubbing between your toes or of your feet in your socks and shoes can cause the skin to crack, ooze, and possibly bleed and become infected. Eczema on your feet can make it annoying and even painful to wear shoes and to walk. So, it is relatively easy for foot eczema to flare up to become worse even without you actively scratching.
When Should I Be Concerned?
While foot eczema is a common condition, it can easily become infected. If it becomes yellow or oozy or has a bad smell to it, or just persists and refuses to heal, then it might be infected. See your doctor about being prescribed some antibiotics. If it isn’t eczema at all but the more common culprit athlete’s foot, then this is contagious, so you should seek treatment to clear it up as soon as possible.
Is It Really Eczema?
A rash or itching on your feet may not be eczema however and could be a number of other things. These would be treated quite differently from eczema, so if you are unsure, see a doctor to get a proper diagnosis.
Many of these other conditions are contagious, so it is worth knowing what they are and treating them appropriately.
Often mistaken for nummular eczema and vice versa, ringworm or athlete’s foot should be treated differently to eczema and you should also take care if you suspect you have it as it is contagious. Also known as tinea pedis or dermatophytosis, ringworm is not a worm but is a fungal condition. The ringworm’s name comes from the red circular patches that it causes on your skin. It can start on an affected part of your body but may spread like an infection to other parts.
The red ring patches will be itchy, scaly, and raised and may crack and flake. They can also develop into blisters and start to ooze. Athlete’s foot is a fungal condition that can be contracted by using communal showers in gyms and communal wet areas like swimming pools. This rash usually appears between the toes and along the sides of the feet and feels hot, itchy, and inflamed. It gets worse if your feet stay warm, moist, and enclosed, so cool, fresh air is a good remedy for this one. Treatment is simple with over the counter anti-fungal creams. Some essential oils have antifungal properties as well including clove, lavender, and tee-tree oil, so you could make your own treatment.
Chilblains also called chill burns, pernio and perniosis is a condition that causes hot, red itchy spots or bumps on extremities like feet and hands, especially in winter. This is another condition naturally confused with eczema.
Chilblains are thought to be caused by poor circulation and often happen when toes and fingers are allowed to get cold and wet and then exposed to sudden heat to try to warm them up. Tight shoes can also cause chilblains. They have harder centers than eczema patches and can also be blue or violet.
The skin can dry, flake, and split as the condition heals, and can become infected. Chilblains are not contagious. Treatment of chilblains is actually similar to eczema; let the feet breathe, wear cotton socks, don’t let your feet get too hot or cold, and instead try to keep your body a regular temperature. Treat them with calamine lotion and try very hard not to scratch.
Although of course, we don’t tend to discuss in public how our feet are hot and itchy, there is nothing to be embarrassed about. It is nothing you are doing wrong and doesn’t happen because you aren’t hygienic, or your house or shower is dirty. Eczema on your feet is similar to suffering from a flare upon any other part of your body; you just have a predisposition to suffering from eczema and something has been triggering it off on your feet. Some triggers include the following;
- Soap or any fragranced products
- Winter, including keeping your feet rugged up and overheated by constant central heating
- Spring and pollen allergies
- Reaction to woolly socks or any synthetic fibers
- Reaction to rubber in shoes
- Laundry detergent
- Washing too often or having the water too hot
- An allergic reaction to nickel
Everybody’s experience of eczema may be slightly different, including the irritants that set it off and the various treatments that help. What works for one person may not work for the next. You may find that you have to try avoiding different irritants until you figure out your particular cause.
You may also have to try different treatments until you find something that works well for your skin. One person’s miracle cure for eczema may not necessarily work for you. It can be a sometimes exhausting and frustrating condition, but if it helps, you are definitely not alone.
No Need To Feel Embarrassed!
No, you should not be embarrassed about suffering from any kind of eczema, including foot eczema. Considering how very common this condition is and how normal and unembarrassing its causes, so many people who have it don’t want to talk about it or have other people know.
It is sad really, because it is so very common, and many people suffer in silence when a simple treatment regime could help so much. Eczema is something that sufferers find that having eczema feet can put a dent in their self-confidence as well. You have nothing at all to be embarrassed about, but at the same time, this feeling is completely reasonable and hard to turn off.
What Should I Do About It?
Treatment is similar to other forms of eczema. You can apply topical steroid ointments to the affected area, and should also apply a good quality moisturizer regularly we use Puriya eczema cream and Diprobase. Cold compresses or wet dressings can also help, and will soothe the hot, inflamed skin and can help you resist scratching. Avoid socks made from wool or synthetic materials, and instead look for cotton, hemp, or bamboo socks.
Gel socks are good and they help to keep your cream against your feet for longer allowing you to get 100% benefit from the moisturizer you use. These are the ones I still use today, I get them from Amazon Eczema Gel Socks. I use them most evenings to allow my feet to absorb the moisturizer as I sleep. Air your feet as often as you possibly can, and don’t pop them directly on the heater vents.
Don’t wash them in very hot water or wash them too often, and instead try to let the natural oils in your feet look after them. Some people have had a great response in their skin to exposure to ultra-violet light treatments, and salt therapy has also been known to work. If nothing else helps, then you may want to give either of these treatments a try. For some people, taking daily probiotics can reduce your eczema.
If it is a seasonal problem, then taking antihistamines may also help. Eczema doesn’t have a cure (sigh! Not yet?) so can only be managed through lifestyle by trying to avoid triggers and keeping your feet at an even temperature and moisturized, but not moist. Keeping them cool and letting them breathe, air, and even feel the sun if possible is the best form of treatment, so try to bury any embarrassment you might be feeling and get your tootsies out.
Nickel Allergies and Irritation
An allergic reaction to nickel can be one of the most common triggers for eczema of the feet or the hands. You may not realize how often you come into contact with this element or that it is affecting you in this way. Nickel is in coins as well as many eyeglasses frames, earrings, watches, and other types of jewelry. But is also in a surprising number of foods, including:
- Chocolate and cocoa powder
- Cashews, asl well as other nuts including almonds, peanuts, and hazelnuts
- Kidney beans
- Green leafy vegetables
- Seeds, legumes and bean sprouts
- Canned fish like tuna and salmon, and also shellfish like prawns and oysters
There are a lot of very harmful bacteria and germs that can get underneath irritated skin. When handling weeping eczema, it’s best to determine which microorganisms may be infecting your skin. This is to be done by medical professionals who will then swab the infected area of skin to come to a determination.
With this being said, there are so many different ways to treat foot eczema It is, however, highly recommended to see a medical professional as soon as you see and or experience signs or you think you’ve developed an infection. It is most effective to do so for weeping eczema as early as possible so the treatments can nip the infection in the bud before becoming too serious. When seeking help from medical professionals, they will typically prescribe the following to help with weeping eczema and skin infections;
- Corticosteroid solutions
- Oral corticosteroids
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory ointments
- Barrier Repair Moisturizers
- Light Therapy
Although the aforementioned medicinal approaches for curing foot eczema, there are four other methods that help improve symptoms of infected eczema;
- Use Soothing Lotions: it is recommended to use lotions like calamine which ease itching.
- MOISTURIZE: it is SUPER important to moisturize! The skin has a natural barrier that is disrupted when it reacts to nickel along with other allergens.
Apple Wet Compresses: this can help with dry blisters while also relieving itching. It is recommended
Foot eczema is a common condition, isn’t contagious, isn’t dirty or unhygienic and you don’t have to be embarrassed about it. It may be triggered by something you are eating, by stress, or something you are exposing your skin to including products or materials. When feet are enclosed and hot and moist this can trigger the condition.
Cooling down the inflammation with wet dressings can help and will reduce inflammation and help you stop scratching. It is easily treated by avoiding the irritants that cause it and replenishing the body’s natural oils with a good moisturizer like Puriya, as well as by avoiding overheated feet. Get your lovely little feet out in the fresh air when possible, as letting them breathe can be one of the best ways to help.