Why Do My Hands and Feet Itch?

When your hands and feet itch, the right treatment can bring you some relief. How you treat the itching, though, depends a lot on the cause of the problem.

It may just be dry skin, which can be brought on by winter weather or too much scrubbing. But sometimes, itchy hands and feet can signal another health condition.

Could It Be Psoriasis?

Psoriasis happens when skin cells grow too fast and then pile up on the skin’s surface. It’s a long-lasting condition that usually runs in families. There are a few different types, and itchiness of the palms and soles is a common symptom.

If you have psoriasis, you may also have:

  • Patches of red skin, bumps filled with puss, or silver scales
  • Painful, swollen, or stiff joints
  • Soreness of the affected area
  • Itchiness in other places like your elbows, knees, lower back, and face

Could It Be Eczema?

Eczema is a term for a group of conditions that inflame the skin. There are several different types that can show up anywhere on the body. But one type, called dyshidrotic dermatitis, affects only the hands and feet.

Besides the urge to scratch, symptoms of dyshidrotic dermatitis include:

  • Clear blisters
  • Red, cracked skin
  • Scaly skin

Could It Be Scabies?

An eight-legged bug, called the human itch mite, is the source of this common skin condition. The tiny pest digs into the top layer of your skin and lays eggs there, causing scabies.

The condition tends to spread in very crowded areas, where people have a lot of skin-to-skin contact that happens over a long time. You usually can’t get scabies from quick touching, like a handshake or a hug.

Itchy hands and feet are common in infants and young kids with scabies, but not adults. It also causes:

  • Itchiness, especially at night, of the entire body or specific areas, like the wrist, elbow, armpit, and the webbing between fingers
  • Pimply rash
  • Tiny blisters and scales
  • Sores
  • Grayish-white or skin-colored “burrows” that look like lines

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Could It Be Diabetes?

A skin problem is sometimes the first sign that you have diabetes. One of these skin conditions is eruptive xanthomatosis, which can make hands and feet itch.

It’s caused by out-of-control diabetes, and it goes away when the disease is managed well. It can also make you itchy on your arms, legs, and buttocks.

Other signs of eruptive xanthomatosis:

Could It Be Allergies?

Your skin can have an allergic reaction to something you touch. The response you see and feel is another type of eczema called allergic contact dermatitis.

Symptoms may not appear for a few hours after you touch the item you’re allergic to. When they do appear, you may feel itchy and have:

How Can I Stop the Itch?

In general, the answer hinges on what's making your hands and feet itch.

Ointments, creams, and lotions can help when dry skin is to blame. If those don’t keep you from scratching, talk to your doctor to figure out what’s right for you.

An allergic reaction may need antihistamines or corticosteroids, whether over-the-counter or prescribed by your doctor. Some products treat scabies by killing the mites on your body. Skin conditions like psoriasis or eczema often require a more detailed treatment plan.

Whatever the cause, don’t just put up with the itch. You’re at a greater risk of infection if you scratch too much.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on January 11, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: “Questions and Answers About Psoriasis.”

American Academy of Dermatology: “Psoriasis,” “Psoriasis: Signs and symptoms,” “Types of Eczema.”

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: “Handout on Health: Atopic Dermatitis.”

American Academy of Dermatology: “Scabies.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Scabies - General Information - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).”

American Diabetes Association: “Skin Complications.”

American Academy of Dermatology: “Contact Dermatitis: Signs and Symptoms.”

American Family Physician: “What Can I Do for Dry, Itchy Skin?”

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