Hypothyroidism on the hands can cause symptoms like discolored skin, joint pain, and tingling.
Hypothyroidism is the medical term for an underactive thyroid gland. This happens when your thyroid does not produce enough hormones to meet your body’s needs.
Hypothyroidism can cause a range of symptoms, some of which may affect the hands.
Learn about the symptoms of hypothyroidism on the hands and skin and what treatment options exist.
If you have hypothyroidism, you may experience pain, numbness, and tingling in your hands and fingers due to carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). This is a common condition that occurs due to compression of the median nerve that travels through the wrist.
You may also notice changes to your hands, such as:
- hands feeling cold
- joint pain
- a yellowish-orange color on your palms
- darker skin in the creases of your palm
- deep, noticeable lines on your palms
Both underactive and overactive thyroid diseases can also affect the fingertips and nails. Some symptoms to look out for include:
- swollen fingertips
- curved nails
- thickening of the skin above the nails
With thyroid diseases, the nails themselves may also:
Hypothyroidism reduces the body’s metabolic rate, which can slow skin cell turnover. This can lead to various skin issues, including:
- eczema craquelé, a type of eczema that causes the skin to look inflamed, cracked, and scaly
- skin that has a dry and coarse texture
- skin that has a yellowish hue
- skin sores or wounds due to delayed wound healing
- cold and mottled skin on the extremities
Hypothyroidism slows metabolism or your “metabolic rate.” The term metabolism refers to all the chemical reactions within body cells that provide the body with energy.
A slow metabolism slows the rate of skin cell turnover and nail growth. Slowed skin cell turnover means that the old, dead skin cells remain on the skin for longer, causing dryness, scaling, and flaking.
Additionally, slowed nail growth causes the nails to become dry and brittle.
When checking for thyroid disease, a doctor will physically examine you for thyroid enlargement, nodules, or other abnormalities in the front of the neck. They will do so by touching the thyroid cartilage, which sits above the thyroid gland.
Doctors may also touch the front of your neck while you swallow some water. This is to check the mobility of the thyroid gland, which should move upward as you swallow.
According to the American Thyroid Association (ATA), a physical exam for hypothyroidism may also include a healthcare professional checking for:
- skin changes
- slower reflexes
- slower heart rate
A healthy thyroid produces sufficient levels of the hormone thyroxine or “T4” to support your body’s needs. When someone has hypothyroidism, the thyroid does not produce adequate levels of this hormone.
Thyroxine replacement increases T4 to regular levels, thereby helping to relieve symptoms of hypothyroidism.
Unless you have life threatening hypothyroidism, you can take levothyroxine orally at home.
Some people who take levothyroxine may benefit from taking it in combination with another synthetic thyroid hormone called T3 or liothyronine.
The best way to take care of hands and skin that have symptoms from hypothyroidism is to take your thyroid medications as prescribed.
The appropriate dosage of levothyroxine raises thyroxine to ideal levels. Continued treatment with levothyroxine helps to maintain these levels, thereby helping to relieve your symptoms.
If you just recently started hypothyrodisim treatment and haven’t had an improvement in your symptoms yet, you may benefit from treatments for dry skin, such as:
- Use lukewarm water instead of hot water when showering or washing your hands. This helps prevent the loss of natural oils from the skin.
- Use a mild, soap-free skin cleanser when showering or washing your hands. Harsh soaps strip oils from the surface of the skin.
- Apply alcohol-free moisturizers after handwashing and showering.
- Apply moisturizing emollients, creams, or ointments several times a day. These products create a thin film over the skin to help retain moisture.
- Use a humidifier at home to help retain adequate levels of moisture in your skin.
- Avoid rubbing or scratching your skin, since doing so can cause additional flaking and dryness.
- Wear gloves during colder, winter months to help protect your hand skin from harsher weather.
- Avoid wearing clothing that’s itchy or irritating. This can worsen flaking, itching, and redness.
Hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroxine to support your body’s needs. An underactive thyroid can slow your body’s metabolism, causing a range of symptoms, some of which may affect the hands.
People with hypothyroidism may experience pain, numbness, and tingling in their hands and fingers. They may also notice changes to the color and texture of the palms of their hands, as well as issues with their fingernails and nail beds.
The main treatment for hypothyroidism is a synthetic thyroid hormone called levothyroxine, which people take orally. This medication raises thyroxine back up to ideal levels.
See your doctor if you experience symptoms of thyroid disease, or are concerned about your levels of thyroid hormones. A doctor can carry out a physical examination of the thyroid gland, and order other diagnostic tests and procedures, if necessary.