Blisters on Hands

Dyshidrotic eczema is a common condition distinguished by intensely itchy bumps, or fluid filled blisters, that affect the palms of the hands and occasionally the soles of the feet. The skin condition usually starts as a cluster of small, raised bumps either in the center of the palm or sides of the fingers. As the condition worsens the bumps fill with clear fluid to form blisters, or vesicles, which eventually erupt and leave behind plaques of dry, cracked skin.


Dyshidrotic eczema is also known as pompholyx or palmoplantar eczema. The condition most commonly affects young adults and occurs more often in warm weather areas. It usually recurs in intervals of three to four weeks and can be ongoing for months or years. It's not completely understood why the condition occurs but it is thought that regular exposure to irritants creates a reaction in the layers of the skin leading to skin changes. There are many skin irritants known to cause dyshidrotic eczema. The most common of these are:

  • Soap
  • Household cleaners such as laundry detergents
  • Ingredients in cosmetic products such as fragrances and preservatives
  • Latex and vinyl gloves
  • Hard metals such as nickel


When the condition is in its early stages, the affected area of skin starts to develop multiple small, raised, bumps that are intensely itchy. The most common area for these to occur is on the palms of the hands and sides of the fingers; occasionally the soles of the feet may be involved as well. For most individuals, avoiding skin irritants and following general skin care measures stops the disease process at this stage. If the condition does progress, itchiness continues and over the next three to four weeks the raised bumps begin to fill with clear, odorless fluid. Eventually the fluid filled blisters erupt and leave behind thick, scaly plaques of skin. The process can continue in similar three to four week cycles, each cycle leading to larger blisters called bullae. In severe cases, scaly plaques of skin may start to crack and fissure, leading to pain and interfering with daily activities.


The first step in treatment is to follow general skin care measures to allow the layers of the skin to heal. These measures include:

  • Avoiding skin irritants
  • Using lukewarm water and soap-free cleansers to wash hands
  • Drying hands completely after washing
  • Applying ointments or salves such as petroleum jelly, as often as possible
  • Removing metal jewelry and watches before washing hands

If more severe skin changes do occur despite following skin care recommendations, a strong steroid ointment may be necessary to decrease inflammation and control symptoms. In rare cases the condition may be severe enough to require oral steroid medication to control skin damage and pain.

Skin changes that are associated with severe pain or worsen despite following appropriate skin care measures should be evaluated by a health care professional. In these instances it is important to be evaluated for other potential causes of symptoms. Other conditions which may present as blisters, or vesicles, on the hands include infections with certain viruses such as Herpesvirus or coxsackievirus, fungal infections, or allergies.

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