Dealing with itchy hands can be very uncomfortable and concerning. The severity of the itch can range from mild to intolerably severe. In many cases, repeatedly itching the affected area can make it even worse and can lead to rashes and swelling. Itchy hands may be a symptom of a common allergy, though it could indicate a more serious condition such as a skin infection or liver disease. It is therefore necessary to seek medical attention to obtain a diagnosis and treatment.
Itchy hands are medically referred to as Palmoplantar Pruritus, which also encompasses itchiness on the soles of your feet. These two symptoms will typically coincide. The itch may present with or without a rash, though there will likely be redness around the affected area. Rash is often a clear indicator of this condition.
Some people might experience this itchiness at a fixed time each day, during which is might occur periodically. A burning sensation on the skin's surface often accompanies this itch.
Itchy hands do not present as their own condition. The cause may be exogenous or endogenous, meaning that. It can be caused by outside sources or something inside the body. For example, hand contact with something that you are allergic to is an exogenous cause. Alternatively, liver or kidney diseases are characterized as endogenous causes. Following are the various types of causes that can lead to itchy hands:
- Contact Dermatitis is a condition in which the red itchy hand is a result of contact with a specific substance like garlic, paint, lead etc. This condition commonly presents with a localized burning rash on the hand, which can last from a few days to several days. You must isolate the specific allergen/irritant so that you can avoid subsequent contact with it in the future. The most common causes of this condition are exposure to irritants like detergents or to plants belonging to the 'Toxicodendron' genus (plants like poison ivy and poison oak). This condition often appears as a pattern of redness/rash where the skin was exposed to the irritant or allergen.
- Infection in a wound on the hands can cause this itchiness as well. This normally occurs if the infected region is not treated promptly or effectively. The bacterial proteins in the wound site act as antigens, which in turn lead to excess production of antibodies, a process that eventually leads to an inflamed and itchy patch of skin.
- Systemic disease is a condition that affects multiple organs and tissues. Chronic kidney failure, liver failure, endocrine disorders like hypothyroidism, and blood disorders like Hodgkin's lymphoma are some of the common disorders that cause itchiness. In some rare cases, generalized itchiness may even be a symptom of HIV infection or Crohn's disease.
- Palmoplantar hyperhidrosis, or increased sweating of the palms and soles of the feet, can also cause (or aggravate) itchy dermatitis. Exposure to a warm environment or water further exacerbates this itching.
- Vitamin or mineral deficiencies can also cause burning and itchiness of the hands. Usually Vitamins B1, B12, and B6 are the culprits. In general, Vitamin B deficiency shows up as a tingling sensation in addition to other normal symptoms.
- Stress and anxiety can often induce or aggravate this itchiness.
A very common cause of itchy hands is exposure to dry and cold environments, like during the winter season. The following tips can help you to avoid this itch:
- Make sure you wear a moisturizer whenever you go outside. If the itch is particularly bad, try using a moisturizer twice daily on the affected area. Even the inside air-conditioned atmosphere can lead to this dry, itchy skin as it is low in humidity. One solution is to use a humidifier in your bedroom. This will not only keep your skin itch-free, but will also make it both softer and smoother.
- Taking a bath with lukewarm water is usually the best temperature for your skin. Hot water actually takes the moisture out from skin, so always try to keep hot water to a minimum. However, if you love to bathe in hot water, you can always add some almond/olive oil to the water, which avoids letting moisture out of your body. Adding oatmeal powder or a handful of colloidal oatmeal has also shown positive results for soothing itchy skin. Submerge your hands in the oatmeal-water mix for a minimum of ten minutes. You should also use a moisturizing soap if you are prone to itchiness and dry skin.
- Keeping the body hydrated is one of the most important things for maintaining a proper electrolyte balance in your body. Though this is important for everyone, it is especially significant for patients with dry skin who therefore react much more rapidly and aggressively to dehydration. Lack of water in the body can result in dry skin and itchiness in a mere day. In winter months this itchiness may worsen due to intake of some food items like hot caffeinated beverages, which can dehydrate the body. You must therefore make sure to compensate by drinking extra water.
- Try using only unscented and naturally colored life style and healthcare products if you have history of allergies. Synthetic additives meant for adding soothing smells or colors can actually worsen the itch. Wearing cotton clothing is wise because cotton is much more skin friendly than other fabrics, and allows for airflow.
- If the itch becomes unbearable, you can use pure cotton gloves to avoid hand contact with anything. Make sure to only wash the gloves in mild and unscented detergent to avoid any possible skin irritation.
It is always wise to do a fair amount of research about your medical condition, though your doctor is an indispensable resource. You may consider taking notes about your daily activities, including your food habits and outdoor activities, to aid your doctor in diagnosing your condition. It will be particularly useful if you are able to note what you came in contact with right before you experienced itchiness. This can help you to identify specific food products or materials that you are allergic to. Your doctor will then be able to suggest the proper treatment plan, which may include medication. Only use anti-itch creams and anti-histamines that are prescribed by your doctor.