Treatments for chronic palmoplantar pustulosis (a skin disease where repeated crops of painful yellow pus spots form on the palms and soles)

Chronic palmoplantar pustulosis is a skin disease where repeated crops of painful yellow pus spots form on the palms and soles, often over many years. Many different treatments have been used including topical creams and ointments, drugs by mouth and ultraviolet radiation. The review of trials found that several treatments improve the symptoms of chronic palmoplantar pustulosis, although no treatment was shown to suppress the condition completely. Oral retinoid therapy (acitretin) appears to be helpful at relieving symptoms, particularly if combined with PUVA. Ciclosporin and tetracycline antibiotics can also provide some relief. Topical treatments were generally less helpful. As yet there is no ideal treatment for chronic palmoplantar pustulosis, though oral retinoids, particularly when combined with psoralens and ultraviolet radiation (PUVA), may help

Authors' conclusions: 

Many different interventions were reported to produce "improvement" in PPP. There is, however, no standardised method for assessing response to treatment, and reductions in pustule counts or other empirical semi-quantitative scoring systems may be of little relevance to the patient. This review has shown that the ideal treatment for PPP remains elusive and that the standards of study design and reporting need to be improved to inform patients and those treating them of the relative merits of the many treatments available to them.

Read the full abstract...

Chronic palmoplantar pustulosis (PPP) is a chronic inflammatory skin condition characterised by crops of sterile pustules (yellow pus spots) on the palms and soles which erupt repeatedly over months or years. The affected areas tend to become red and scaly; cracks may form and these are often painful. Many different treatments have been used for palmoplantar pustulosis but none is generally accepted as being reliably effective.


To assess the effects of treatments for palmoplantar pustulosis, both in reducing disease severity and in maintaining remission once achieved.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Skin Group Specialised Register (January 2003), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (The Cochrane Library Issue 1, 2003), MEDLINE (1966 to February 2003), EMBASE (1988 to February 2003). We also cross-checked with the Salford Database of Psoriasis Trials and reference lists of articles. We also contacted authors included trials, members of the Cochrane Skin Group and dermatologists interested in psoriasis.

Selection criteria: 

Any randomised controlled trial in which patients with chronic palmoplantar pustulosis were randomised to receive one or more interventions.

Data collection and analysis: 

At least two reviewers independently assessed trial eligibility and quality. Study authors were contacted for additional information. Adverse effects information was collected from the trials.

Main results: 

Twenty-three trials involving 724 people were included. There is evidence supporting the use of systemic retinoids (improvement rate difference 44%, 95 CI 28 to 59%), oral PUVA (improvement rate difference 44%, 95 CI 26 to 62%). However, a combination of PUVA and retinoids is better than the individual treatments. The use of topical steroid under hydrocolloid occlusion is beneficial. It would also appear that low dose ciclosporin, tetracycline antibiotics and Grenz Ray Therapy may be useful in treating PPP. Colchicine has a lot of side effects and it is unclear if it is effective and neither was topical PUVA (rate difference of 0.00, 95% CI -0.04 to +0.04). There is no evidence to suggest that short-term treatment with hydroxycarbamide (hydroxyurea) is effective.