Itchy palms are certainly annoying. They can drive you mad when the irritating, burning itch doesn’t stop. But an itchy palm is rarely a sign of a bigger, more serious problem. That’s the good news. The bad news is that itchy palms can be a sign of a chronic skin condition that needs frequent treatment.
Identifying what causes your palms to itch, what helps stop the itch, and any other symptoms that occur can help you and your doctor diagnose what’s happening. Once a diagnosis is made, treatment can begin, and in most cases, it will provide quick relief.
Causes of itchy palms
Several conditions may be responsible for itchy palms. These include:
Dry skin. Winter weather causes skin to dry out. Dry skin can be irritating and cause itching.
Skin damage. Certain chemicals or substances can irritate your hands’ sensitive skin. Scrubbing or brushing can irritate your skin, too. This can cause dryness, peeling, and itching.
Allergic reaction. If you’re allergic to something you touch, you may experience itchy palms. The itching may not start right away. In some cases, you may not experience any itching for several hours after coming into contact with the allergen.
Psoriasis. This common skin condition causes uncontrolled growth of skin cells. This increased pace means skin cells aren’t able to naturally slough off. Instead, the extra skin cells pile up on the surface of your skin. In addition to itching, psoriasis can cause:
- red blisters, sometimes with silvery white scales
- painful, swollen joints
- cracked skin that may bleed
- soreness in the nearby joints
Psoriasis is chronic, but you may only experience infrequent or temporary bouts with the condition instead of a constant outbreak. It does not typically affect the palms.
Eczema. Atopic dermatitis, or eczema as it’s sometimes called, is a condition that makes your skin itch. It may cause colored patches of skin in the affected area. Some will be red, while others may be darker brown or almost gray. Some people will develop small bumps that stick up from the skin. These bumps may burst and leak fluid. The skin may also be dry. That could lead to cracking and even bleeding. Like psoriasis, eczema outbreaks may come and go. You may have symptoms for a few days or weeks and then not experience it for several months.
Diabetes. It’s rare, but diabetes can cause itchy palms. Diabetes can cause poor blood circulation, and poor blood circulation can lead to itchy skin. However, most people with diabetes-related itching experience it in their legs more than in their hands.
Itchy palms are not always a symptom of a problem on their own. Sometimes, your palms just itch.
Other times, however, it may be an indication of a skin issue. Symptoms beyond an itchy palm might help you determine what is causing your itchiness. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms in addition to itchy palms, you may need to see your doctor:
- red, inflamed skin with or without thick, dry scales
- silverish-white scales
- bleeding or cracking of the skin
- small blisters that leak or burst
- burning or stinging skin
Treating itchy hands
Treatment depends on what’s causing your palms to itch. Matching treatment to symptoms or condition will help you get relief faster.
Dry skin. Applying a moisturizing lotion to your skin several times a day may be enough to ease the itching. Look for one that hydrates the skin with glycerin, lactic acid, topical urea, or moisturizers that decrease water loss, such as petroleum jelly/ointments. Thinner lotions may not be as good for healing. Look for an unscented option, too. Some of the highly scented lotions are irritating to sensitive skin.
Allergies. Treat the allergy with an antihistamine or allergy medication. An antihistamine lotion may also be helpful.
Eczema and psoriasis. Both of these conditions may be mild enough that you can treat the itchy palms with lotion or over-the-counter steroid ointments. Some severe cases of these skin conditions require prescription medications. These medications can slow or stop the bodily processes that cause these conditions.
Diabetes. Diagnosing diabetes or a blood glucose issue early can help you reduce symptoms and side effects. Once diabetes is diagnosed, symptoms may subside if blood glucose levels are properly managed.
Itchy palms are rarely a chronic condition. In most cases, the itching will stop once a cause is identified and a treatment is chosen.
If the itching is more chronic — for example, because you have psoriasis that relapses and affects your hand — certain treatment options may help you find relief. It is certainly annoying, but itchy palms are in no way life-threatening.
Once a cause is identified, make sure you’re doing all you can to avoid additional risk factors that may increase the itching. Also, be sure to use preventive methods that may stop any itching before it has a chance to begin.
Preventing itchy palms can be as simple as taking proper care of your skin. Here are some tips.
Stay hydrated. Moisturize your body from the inside out. Drink plenty of water, and eat water-rich foods.
Use lotion. Thick lotions and moisturizers that help the skin feel more comfortable and hydrated. This may keep the skin from drying out and itching.
Protect your hands. If your skin is sensitive, try to protect your hands whenever you’re going to be touching chemicals or solutions that might irritate your skin. Try latex gloves for liquids. Thick cotton gloves may be useful for day-to-day activities in the cold and for handling dry substances.
Avoid harsh cleansers and soaps. They can be irritating.