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 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?
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 or dyshidrosis is a common skin condition that can affect feet and hands as well. Blisters develop on the soles of the feet and are usually uncomfortable and itchy. They may also be filled with pus or fluid and can last from between 2-4 weeks. They are common in spring, the same time as people may get hayfever.
If you succumb to scratching, as the blisters heal you will get flaky skin and possibly also cracked, bleeding and painful skin.
It can be common for people who have their feet often hot, wet or moist.
Contact dermatitis is another common form of eczema that can affect any part of your body, including the feet. It is usually brought on by contact with a trigger or irritant, like metal, latex, wool, synthetic fibres, soap, perfume, skincare products, detergents or household chemicals.
Your skin will itch and turn red and may have a burning, stinging feeling. You may have hives or blisters, which can ooze and also become crusted.
Nummular eczema is also known as nummular dermatitis or discoid eczema. It is characterized by oval or coin-shaped lesions or spots on the skin, which are itchy and may ooze, or become dry, flaky or crusty.
It is a common condition in men from their 50s and onwards (although anyone can get it, and at any age). It may occur following a skin injury such as an insect bite or a burn.
It is easily treated but can become a concern if it gets infected. It is one of the only forms of eczema that can be cured. Coal-Tar cream is a great steroid-free treatment.
Itchy feet: 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 a foot eczema to flare up to become worse even without you actively scratching.
Is it eczema though? What else could it be?
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.
Athlete’s foot (also known as tinea or ringworm)
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 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 as 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
Chillblains 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 centres 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.
Back to talking about foot eczema now…
Why do I get it? Is it something I am doing wrong?
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 up on 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.
Triggers could include:
- 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 fibres
- Reaction to rubber in shoes
- Laundry detergent
- Washing too often or having the water too hot
- Having your feet often warm and moist or sweaty
- An allergic reaction to nickel (more about this below)
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.
Should I be embarrassed about it?
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 can 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 you 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.
Details of the products in the article
- Vaniply Ointment – A gentle and effective ointment that forms a protective film on the skin which helps to retain the skin’s natural moisture. Non-comedogenic, fragrance-free. This mild and gentle ointment helps soothe dry, irritated, itchy skin without a greasy feel. Helps prevent water loss. Helps relieve and prevent dry, chapped, cracked skin and lips. Can be used on the face. The ideal moisturizing formula for dry skin associated with eczema, psoriasis, ichthyosis, and winter itch. Kid-friendly. Available from Amazon.
- Diprobase – Suitable for everyday use, I use it all over my body 3 times a day and on my hands, feet, and face whenever I feel dry. ( Which is most of the time) It’s my favorite everyday moisturizer. If you’ve never tried it then get some today. I don’t know where I’d be without it. Medium thickness white cream, easy to apply, doesn’t sting and is non-greasy. Available from Amazon.
- Puriya-Is a good cream to relieve itchy feet quickly. I use it when I have a flare-up or I’m itching and cannot resist itching. I know if I don’t stop the urge I will scratch and do more damage to my feet. So I reach for the Puriya. Available from Amazon.
- Wet Wraps – Apply your normal cream, allow it to soak into the skin for a few minutes then wet these bandages and put over the affected area. It will cool the skin down and reduce the itching, plus allow the cream to soak into the skin better. Available from Amazon.
- Eczema Socks– These gel-filled socks allow air to get to your feet whilst allowing the cream on your feet to soak directly into them without losing any of the benefits of the cream. I apply my cream and then sleep in these socks. My feet feel amazing the next day. Available from Amazon
Do I have a nickel allergy?
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 jewellery. But is also in a surprising number of foods, including:
- Chocolate and cocoa powder (sorry to have to tell you about this one)
- Cashews, as well as other nuts including almonds, peanuts, and hazelnuts
- Wholegrain flour
- Kidney beans
- Green leafy vegetables
- Seeds, legumes and bean sprouts
- Canned fish like tuna and salmon, and also shellfish like prawns and oysters
If you suspect that you might have a nickel allergy-triggering your foot eczema, perhaps consider an elimination diet and stop eating some of the above foods to see if this makes a difference.
Taking vitamin C supplements can also slow down your body’s absorption of nickel.
Foot eczema: 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.
Itchy feet and foot eczema – a summary
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.
Good luck and let us know how you treat your itchy eczema feet.
Editor @ OurEczemaStory
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