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Your hands are one of the most common parts of your body to itch. This makes sense, as they always seem to be touching things, and allergic and irritating reactions can occur through contact.
But itchiness has plenty of possible causes, from simple dry skin to an underlying disease like eczema.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common triggers for itchy fingers, and what you can do about them.
They may not be the carnivorous plant from Jumanji, but there are several plants that can make you itch, and these poisonous ones still pack an itchy, rash-inducing punch:
- poison oak
- poison ivy
- poison hemlock
Another plant to avoid is poison sumac, which is higher on the itchiness scale than its cousins, poison oak and ivy. It generally grows in wet areas east of the Mississippi.
If you’ve come into contact with any of these dangerous shrubs, your fingers may be reacting to an allergic substance in their sap called urushiol oil.
- skin irritation or itchiness
How to soothe it:
- Rinse. Urushiol oil is sticky and can transfer from your hands to whatever you touch (including your clothes). First rinse the suspected area of contact with lukewarm water. Then thoroughly wash with soap (such as dish soap) in lukewarm water.
- Calm with the c’s. Cortisone and calamine products can help calm skin itch. These normally come as over-the-counter (OTC) lotions or creams.
- Take antihistamines. Loratadine (Claritin) and diphenhydramine (Benadryl) fight inflammation, a fundamental component of allergic reactions. Some doctors think these will do nothing for the rash, but only make you sleepy, however.
- See the doc. If at-home remedies don’t stop the itch after a few weeks, head to the doctor’s office for a prescription-strength steroid such as prednisone, or a potent topical steroid.
This isn’t just the dry, patchy skin you know as eczema. Dyshidrotic eczema forms tiny, furiously itchy blisters on the edges of your palms, fingers, or feet.
This form of eczema can have multiple triggers such as stress, sweating, and/or contact with irritating substances, like metals, such as nickel or cobalt.
It seems to run in families and is twice as likely to affect women than men (sorry ladies).
- tiny blisters on fingers, palms, toes, or soles of feet
- itching (and sometimes pain, especially if you scratch at these blisters)
- scaly, dry skin
How to soothe it:
- Ovoid irritating soaps. Washing with harsh detergents, especially too often, can cause extra irritation. We’ve personally found that using a triclosan-free soap does wonders.
- Soothe and protect. Apply a rich (preferably fragrance-free) moisturizer or skin barrier repair cream, and apply often. We’ve also found that massaging a blend of neem and olive oil into the affected skin helps to soothe and clear this type of eczema.
- Get a prescription. More severe cases may require topical steroids.
- Don’t scratch. Resist any urge to scratch or pop these blisters open. It can cause further damage, take longer to heal, and invite infection.
Control the moisture: Excessive sweating can be a trigger for dyshidrotic eczema and may make symptoms worse. Try Botox injections to minimize wetness in the area (no, we’re not kidding!).
Your itchy fingers may be the result of psoriasis — a chronic autoimmune condition that causes skin cells to build up too quickly, resulting in dry, red plaques that are sometimes itchy or painful.
Doctors think psoriasis is caused by an abnormal immune system which results in inflammation that causes the pink scaly plaques we see in psoriasis to form.
Along with stress, common triggers include infection, injury, smoking, alcohol, and vitamin D deficiency.
- pink, silvery plaques that may bleed
- thick or ridged nails
- joint pain (if psoriatic arthritis)
How to soothe it:
- Apply topical medications. Prescription corticosteroids or retinoids can improve the appearance of the plaques in psoriasis. Topical steroids work well in reducing the inflammation. Salicylic acid products may also help by removing dead skin cells to reduce skin scaling. Topical vitamin D medications such as calcipotriene may also be a good option for your skin lesions.
- Try phototherapy. Narrow band UV-B light is a common treatment for psoriasis and can improve psoriatic lesions, potentially through interacting with the immune system cells in the skin. This is a treatment that can be done in the dermatologist’s office or, in some instances, through at-home units.
- Consider oral or injectable medications. Methotrexate and cyclosporine suppress the immune system’s natural response to create inflammation around psoriasis patches. Your doctor can discuss if these are good options for you. Other medications also exist, including a variety of biologic medications such as but not limited to Humira, Stelara, Taltz, and Cosentyx.
- Moisturize. Psoriasis creates cracked, dry patches, but keeping these areas well hydrated will help combat it.
Contact dermatitis is your skin’s universal reaction to allergens and irritants.
This itchy red rash can come from contact with just about anything: soaps, plants, cosmetics, certain metals, etc. Finding the source of the problem is the most important step in treating it.
- severe itching
- dry, cracked skin
- bumps or blisters that may ooze
- swelling or tenderness
- burning sensation
- sun sensitivity
- hives (less typical)
How to soothe it:
- Take good care of your skin. Use gentle, fragrance-free washes with lukewarm water. Minimize hand washing when possible. Use a fragrance-free cream (or plain Vaseline) after washing your hands in order to lock in moisture.
- Stop using any products that may be causing the reaction. And patch test new products in the future to avoid repeat problems.
- Use a cool, wet compress to calm the itch.
- Use an OTC anti-itch cream such as calamine or hydrocortisone lotion.
Does the itch feel worse near the creases of your fingers? It may be scabies — an infestation of tiny mites that burrow under the skin and lay eggs.
It’s a highly contagious condition that’s passed through skin-to-skin contact or shared clothing, towels, or bedding.
- small blisters or pus-filled bumps, often between fingers
- burrow marks or tracks
- scaly skin
- itching that becomes worse at night
How to soothe it:
See a doctor for scabicide treatments. They may come in either oral or lotion form and you may need several rounds of treatment.
Diabetes is known for wreaking havoc on your blood sugar. When it pushes those sugar levels high enough to cause nerve damage, it creates a condition called peripheral neuropathy.
This may make your fingers feel itchy or sensitive.
Other symptoms include:
- pain or weakness in your fingers
- loss of feeling or numbness
- increased finger sensitivity
Like diabetes, there’s no cure for peripheral neuropathy, but taking good care of your diabetes can prevent worsening of the neuropathy or other complications, and may actually improve symptoms.
Also, some medications are FDA approved for diabetic neuropathy, such as pregabalin (Lyrica).
General measures to take may include:
- stabilize your blood sugar levels
- exercise regularly
- quit smoking
- get your blood pressure under control
- try nerve-calming medications, such as gabapentin
- apply creams containing capsaicin
- try acupuncture
Keeping your hands healthy boils down to a few simple practices:
- use soaps and lotions that are mild and unscented
- wear gloves when handling chemicals or other irritants
- keep yourself hydrated to promote healthy skin
- wear mittens or gloves in the winter
- dry your hands thoroughly after washing them
- avoid washing hands too often
- moisturize often with heavy creams or plain Vaseline
If at-home remedies aren’t helping your itchy fingers, or you’re exhibiting any of the following symptoms, see a doctor right away:
- severe itching that disrupts your normal life (especially if it prevents you from sleeping)
- extreme tiredness, weight loss, changes in bowel habits or urinary frequency, fever, or redness of the skin
A doctor or dermatologist will assess your symptoms and may prescribe oral medications, antibiotics, antifungals, stronger corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, immunomodulators, or other medications as a next course of action.
There are a number of causes for itchy fingers, but the good news is that most have at-home or OTC solutions.
You’ve most likely come into contact with an irritant or allergic substance, which will go away with good skin care and time. Keep tabs on your healing progress and see a doctor if you can’t kick the itch in about a week.