Itchy hands and feet: causes and symptoms

Itchy hands and feet may be a symptom of a skin condition or other underlying condition that needs treatment. The best way to prevent itching on hands and feet is good skin care and treatment of any underlying condition. Itchy hands and feet can be very irritating and interfere with your daily activities. Itching can have a major impact on the quality of life. Fiery or persistent itching can be annoying, and constant scratching can lead to scratching effects. Itching at night can also seriously disrupt your sleep, making you tired during the day. There are several possible causes of itchy hands and itchy feet. The itching can occur on the foot, on the side of the foot or under the feet, the soles of the feet. What are the most common causes of tickling or itching on hands and feet?

Possible causes of itchy hands and itchy feet

  • Itchy hands and itchy feet due to skin conditions
  • Dry skin
  • Psoriasis
  • Allergic contact dermatitis (contact allergy)
  • Pompholyx (vesicle eczema)
  • Pitted keratolysis (pitted soles)
  • Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis)
  • Scabies
  • Diabetes
  • Hand eczema
  • Medicines that cause itching
  • Itchy hands and itchy feet due to medical conditions
  • Vitamin deficiency
  • Tension as a cause of itching in hands and/or feet

 

Itchy hands and itchy feet due to skin conditions

Most skin conditions cause chronic or recurring itching. Common skin conditions that can cause itching of the hands or feet are:

Dry skin

Dry skin is also called ‘xerosis cutis’ or ‘xeroderma’. Many factors can cause dry skin, including changes in weather, exposure to sunlight, exposure to central heating and air conditioning, poor lifestyle habits, certain conditions, soaps and other cleansers, and aging. Under the influence of these factors, fats in the skin barrier can decrease, causing the skin to lose moisture and dry out. This leads to dryness, flaking, fine lines or cracks in the skin (crackle appearance), deep cracks that can bleed, redness and severe itching.
The best way to treat dry skin is to moisturize with moisturizers and remove the underlying cause (if possible). It is best to use skin care products that have been specially developed for sensitive skin.

Alcohol as a trigger for psoriasis / Source: Istock.com/karelnoppe

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a non-contagious, chronic skin condition characterized by thick, red and scaly patches on the skin. The cause is unknown, but it may be related to immune system dysfunction. It is possible that psoriasis is an autoimmune disease. Some things can trigger or worsen psoriasis symptoms. The main triggers are stress, infections and certain medications, but there is also evidence that hormones, weather conditions, skin damage and alcohol and tobacco play a role.
In the Netherlands, approximately a quarter of a million people have psoriasis. The scope varies greatly: you can suffer from mild outbreaks, where you may not even know you have psoriasis, to severe cases, where you are covered in plaques spread all over the body.

Allergic contact dermatitis (contact allergy)

Contact dermatitis is an inflammatory skin condition resulting from exposure to a wide range of potential allergens or irritants (which cause an allergic reaction in the skin). You have become allergic as a result of previous skin contact with the substance in question. This doesn’t happen overnight. Before the allergy develops, you must first have been in contact with that substance for a while. It could be weeks or even years. You may experience itching, red bumps, flaking and discharge (wetting).

Pompholyx on the hand / Source: Chalco, Wikimedia Commons (GFDL)

Pompholyx (vesicle eczema)

Pompholyx is a form of vesicular eczema, which manifests itself on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet and causes blisters and blisters that can itch or cause a burning sensation. In severe cases, blisters merge into a larger spot. Blisters that are healing dry up, causing flaky eczema to develop. It mainly occurs in people under 40 years of age. The exact cause of this condition is not yet known, but there are probably a number of triggering factors, such as certain metals (directly on the skin or in food), sweating of the hands and feet, and tension.

Pitted keratolysis (pitted soles)

Dimple soles is a skin condition characterized by crater-shaped pits in the skin of the foot (and sometimes in the palms), especially in those places of the foot where the pressure is greatest and (therefore) the callus layer is thick. The cause is a superficial bacterial skin infection. It is slightly more common in men than in women.

Athlete’s foot / Source: Ellington, Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)

Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis)

Athlete’s foot is a common skin infection caused by fungi. These fungi attack the horny layer of the epidermis, causing flaking and cracks between the toes or itchy blisters on the soles of the feet. It is also possible that you will suffer from red and flaky skin lesions on (especially) the edges of the feet. Furthermore, the nails of your toes may be affected.

Scabies

Itchy hands and feet can also be the result of the dreaded scabies mite. The pests penetrate the top layer of your skin to lay eggs, causing severe itching. Scabies is a highly contagious skin condition. Blisters or pimples may also be visible. The itching can cause you to scratch it open, which can cause inflammation.

Diabetes

Diabetes can also be responsible for itchy hands and feet. However, this itching disappears once your blood sugar level is under control.

Hand eczema / Source: Fedorov Ivan Sergeevich/Shutterstock.com

Hand eczema

Many people suffer from hand eczema, an often chronic and difficult to treat skin condition. Acute hand eczema can manifest itself in redness, swelling, bumps and blisters, sometimes causing fluid to escape from the skin. The blisters then dry into flakes and crusts, after which the skin peels and the redness decreases.

Medicines that cause itching

Itching can also be a side effect of certain medicines. Examples include opiates/opioids and some antipsychotics. Someone may also be allergic to certain medications and experience a rash or hives. If you think that your complaints are caused by the medications you are taking, it is wise to discuss this with your doctor. Never stop taking prescribed medications on your own.

Itchy hands and itchy feet due to medical conditions

Persistent itching of the hands and feet may be a sign of Crohn’s disease, chronic kidney disease, or certain liver diseases, such as cirrhosis, liver cancer, and hepatitis. These kidney and liver diseases can also cause itching in addition to all kinds of other symptoms. Itchy palms can also be associated with thyroid disorders.

Vitamin deficiency

What people often do not realize is that they can suffer from eczema, rashes, skin irritation and itchy skin as a result of a vitamin deficiency. A deficiency of vitamin B2, B3, B6 and B12 can cause you to suffer from itching and skin problems. A vitamin D deficiency can also cause itching.

Tension as a cause of itching in hands and/or feet

Research shows that chronic stress and anxiety can lead to itchy hands and feet, as well as itching in other parts of the body. High stress levels can also lead to worsening of existing skin problems associated with itching.

read more

  • Itching between the toes: symptoms, cause and treatment
  • Itchy skin or itching: causes of itching and types of itching
  • Itchy hands: itching on palm and back of hand
  • Itching in older people (pruritus senilis or old age itch)
  • Itchy feet: causes and symptoms of itchy feet
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