How to Take Care of Psoriasis on Your Hands & Feet

The palms of your hands and soles of your feet make up less than 5% of the skin on your body. That’s a pretty small area, but you use them all the time, every day. If they're inflamed with psoriasis, simple tasks can become hard to do.

With the right treatment, you can control your symptoms and get relief for your hands, feet, and nails.

What Are The Causes?

One type of hand and foot psoriasis is called pustular psoriasis. It gets its name from the whitish-yellow blisters, or pustules, it causes.

The blisters are not contagious, but they can be painful. They can show up anywhere on your body, but mostly on the palms of your hands and soles of your feet.

They can be triggered by:

  • Some medications
  • Irritation from creams or ointments
  • Too much UV light
  • Pregnancy
  • Steroids
  • Infections
  • Stress
  • Stopping medication quickly

If you smoke, you're more likely to get pustular psoriasis. It’s more common in adults than children, and women tend to get it more than men.

What Does It Look Like?

The skin on your hands and feet becomes red, and then blisters appear. You can also get scales around the blisters. Your palms and soles can swell, crack, and bleed.

Pressure or rubbing on your hands and feet -- like from shoes that don’t fit -- can make the problem worse. After the blisters burst, they might dry up or make your skin crusty and brown.

How Do I Treat My Flare-Up?

Because you use your hands and feet so much, treatment can be a challenge. The condition can affect your ability to walk, button a shirt, hold a pencil, and do many other regular things. It’s best if you act quickly and do what you can to prevent flares.

Start with a visit to your doctor as soon you notice symptoms. She'll try different options until she finds the one that’s right for you.

Some treatments are:

  • Medicines that go on your skin
  • Prescription drugs in liquid or pill form
  • Special light therapy units for palms and soles
  • Biologic drugs that you get through an IV or as an injection

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Your doctor may also recommend you use super glue to seal cracks in your palms and soles. It’s important to make sure you don’t have an allergy to the glue before trying it.

Keep your skin moisturized with lotion and drink plenty of water. When it's dry it cracks more easily, which can lead to more blisters. Skin that’s hydrated can also take in on-the-skin treatment better and heal faster.

Can It Affect My Nails?

Half of all people with psoriasis have it on their nails. If you have psoriatic arthritis, you're even more likely to have symptoms there.

Psoriasis can affect your nails in many ways. It can:

  • Change the color or shape
  • Make dents
  • Make them thick with scale under the nail plate
  • Chip or split
  • Make it easier for them to fall off or lift away from the nail bed
  • Be painful to touch
  • Make small pits on the surface

What Can I Do for My Nails?

Psoriasis affects them as they’re forming, which can make it tricky to treat. In some cases, you can use an ointment to take care of a flare-up on your skin, but your thickened nail may keep those treatments from sinking in to the problem area.

Instead, your doctor may recommend:

  • Corticosteroid shots
  • Scraping or filing the nail
  • Removing the nails
  • Light therapy

Sometimes it goes away on its own, with no treatment.

Take some steps to keep your nails safe:

  • Keep them short.
  • Cover loose nails with a bandage or gloves (not latex).
  • Don’t bite your nails or use them to open things.

Everyday things you do for your overall health help, too. Eat well, exercise, and keep your stress levels low. All these things help your psoriasis treatments work better, so you’re less likely to have a flare.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on January 24, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Dermatology: “Case-based review: Palmoplantar psoriasis,” “Psoriasis: Tips for Managing.”

American Osteopathic College of Dermatology: “Palmoplantar Pustulosis.”

National Psoriasis Foundation: “Pustular Psoriasis,” “Hands, Feet and Nails.”

The Psoriasis Association: “Pustular Psoriasis,” “Nail Psoriasis.”

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