I was diagnosed with Dyshidrotic Eczema as a small child and suffer regular outbreaks.
Tiny blisters form on the skin of my hands, begin to itch unbearably, eventually break open & peel and burn, and are sometimes followed by deep, painful lesions. Several stages of the chronic problem could be happening at once, so that my hands were both itching with blisters and raw & burning, with painful cracks. Usually, the outbreaks resolved themselves on their own after a few weeks, though I had to occasionally use a topical steroid to rid myself of a long outbreak.
This last year, however, the symptoms became incredibly severe, with major swelling and excruciating pain. My fingers began looking like sausages and I had virtually no skin left anywhere on my hands -- even the backs became covered in blisters. I visited six different doctors, each multiple times. All prescribed some form of steroid -- creams, ointments, shots, oral cycles, etc. In each case, the steroid would work, briefly; within weeks or even days, however, the symptoms eventually returned full force. I read about natural remedies and began diet changes and even went on a vegetable fast that was supposed to clean out my digestive tract and rid my body of the toxins causing the skin ailment -- to no avail!
Finally, a dermatologist sent me to an allergist who performed a patch test used for determining contact allergies (the doc said that if the patch test hadn't turned up anything, he'd have checked for food allergies next, followed by environmental allergies).
As it turns out, I'm allergic to a chemical called methylisothiazolone (also called methylisothiazolone, metatin GT, Mitco, Acticide, algucid, amerstat 250, Euxyl K 100, Fennosan IT 21, Grotan TK2, Kathon, Mergal, Chloromethylisothiazolone, etc.), which is present in many hand soaps, shampoos, conditioners, baby wipes, cosmetics, detergents, fabric softeners, dish soaps, and even paint. The chemical, which is also present in a compound for which I tested positive, is known as a common allergen and is widely used as a preservative in cleansing products, since it has Antibiotic and anti-fungal properties.
If your skin is compromised in any way (if you suffer from any form of Eczema, your skin often is!), then continued exposure to this chemical very commonly causes an escalating allergic reaction which may be confused for a regular outbreak. Ironically, because I had so many lesions over the surface of my skin, I washed my hands constantly, and when washing became too painful, I used baby wipes! Gloves seemed to make the problem even worse, so good hygiene seemed a necessary evil. I now realize that I was, of course, making things even worse for myself.
The chemical takes up to three weeks to break down in the skin, so even after exposure is limited as much as possible, you may continue to exhibit symptoms while the break-down process happens.
I recommend allergy testing to anyone suffering from this incredible painful form of eczema -- you, too, may have developed underlying issues which are interfering with your body's ability to heal itself. It's a simple procedure and was covered entirely by even my (crappy!) insurance (I could have saved myself hundreds of dollars in doctor & specialist co-pays if I'd thought to do it sooner).