Losing function in your hands, on top of dealing with psoriasis, can amplify mental health challenges, but there are things you can do.
When psoriasis affects your hands, it can be uncomfortable and can even lead to a loss of movement and function. But psoriasis doesn’t have to drive the bus. You can take matters into your own hands to help yourself feel better.
Your hands are a very sensitive part of your body. They have a lot of nerve endings, joints, muscles, and ligaments that help you move and give your brain a lot of sensory information. Because of this, if psoriasis affects your hands, it can cause more exaggerated symptoms and may even lead to loss of function in your hands.
Losing function in your hands can make it hard to do simple things like get dressed, cook, and even unscrew a toothpaste cap. Living with these difficulties can really get you down and may amplify the conditions that lead to depression.
This article will get you on the path to feeling better and finding out what you can do to deal with psoriasis on your hands.
Before discussing symptoms, let’s look at what kinds of psoriasis can affect your hands.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder that affects about 3% of the population of the United States. Although psoriasis affects the hands less commonly than other areas of the body, the condition can affect your hands (and feet), causing pain, itchiness, and possible disability.
There are a few types of psoriasis that may affect your hands, including:
- Nail psoriasis: This affects 20% to 40% of people with plaque psoriasis, causing symptoms such as nail pitting and separation from the nail bed.
- Palmoplantar psoriasis: This type affects 12% to 16% of people with psoriasis and causes dry, red, and thickened palms and often painful fissures. It is one of the most debilitating forms of psoriasis.
- Plaque psoriasis: This type of psoriasis can affect your finger joints.
Your symptoms may vary depending on which type of psoriasis is affecting your hands. But common symptoms include:
- development of fissures on your palms
- nail pitting
- nail separation from the nail bed
- crumbling, brittle nails
- nail bed discoloration
- loss of function in your hand
- inflammation and reddish areas of skin around whitish-silver scales (on light skin tones)
- inflammation and purplish or dark brown areas of skin around gray scales (on dark skin tones)
- skin cracking and bleeding
You or someone else may also experience social and emotional distress due to the visibility of the affected areas and the potentially debilitating effects. This can lead to depression, social withdrawal, and development of insecurities.
Psoriatic arthritis is a form of inflammatory arthritis strongly linked to psoriasis. About 30% of people who develop psoriasis will eventually develop psoriatic arthritis.
Psoriatic arthritis can cause joint pain and stiffness in your hands and fingers. It can also lead to painful swelling in your fingers and disfigurement of your nails.
If you develop joint pain in addition to fissures or issues with your nails, you may want to let a doctor know about your new symptoms. They may be able to recommend a treatment that can help you.
Here are some steps you can take at home to help manage your psoriasis symptoms:
- Use warm water to wash your hands.
- Keep your hands clean, but avoid scrubbing them.
- Use a gentle, moisturizing hand soap.
- Use a dye- and perfume-free lotion on your hands after washing them, showering, or washing dishes.
- Let your hands get some sunlight, but avoid getting a sunburn.
- Write down things that seem to cause flares of symptoms and take steps to avoid those triggers.
Psoriasis on super-sensitive areas such as your hands can be hard to treat, but you do have options.
A doctor or other healthcare professional may develop a treatment plan tailored to your needs. Basic treatment options may include:
- Topical medications such as creams: While some people find that creams and ointments don’t work very well on their nails and hands, some doctors may recommend using these products in combination with biologics or other systemic therapies or as a first-line therapy in some cases
- Phototherapy: Phototherapy, or light therapy, can help clear up psoriasis on your hands, but it has its drawbacks. It can increase the risk of skin cancer, and you may find the treatment tough to stick with.
- Systemic therapies: A doctor may prescribe medications that affect your entire body, such as methotrexate, cyclosporine, and acitretin.
- Biologic therapy: Biologics are special medications made using organic material. They may help with hard-to-treat psoriasis. These may work well for you if other therapies have not worked.
Living with psoriasis on your hands and trying to find a treatment that works for you can be frustrating and hard to cope with.
Talking about it with someone or joining a support group may help. You might want to look for a mental health professional, a therapy group, or another professional to help you find coping strategies that work for you.
The National Psoriasis Foundation offers many ways to connect with other people living with psoriasis or to help family members who are living with the condition. You can find links to the resources and support groups they offer here.
Psoriasis on your hands can be physically and emotionally painful. While experts generally consider psoriasis on the hands and nails difficult to treat, you have several options to help your hands feel better.
A combination of topical treatments, phototherapy, and systemic medications may help manage your psoriasis symptoms. You may also find that you benefit from group support or mental health services and therapies.
You can also take steps on your own to help keep your hands healthy, such as applying moisturizers, washing with gentle soaps, and keeping track of and avoiding possible triggers.