Itching, which is medically referred to as pruritus, is a sensation that causes an urge to scratch. This sensation could be generalized or localized. When pruritus is generalized, it may be an indicator of a systemic disease. On the other hand, itching that is localized to a specific part of the skin is usually a sign of a skin condition. The symptoms that accompany itching must therefore be taken into consideration for a proper diagnosis of the underlying condition.
Itching in Hands and Feet
An itching sensation in feet and hands could be caused due to a wide range of reasons. Though itching is commonly experienced when you develop a rash, it may sometimes precede a skin rash. It is often a sign of dermatitis, which is a broad term that is used to signify inflammation of the skin. It causes an urge to scratch which in turn may increase the risk of a secondary bacterial infection.
Dry skin is medically referred to as xerosis cutis. Several skin changes can occur when the skin dries out excessively due to lack of moisture and humidity, especially during winters. Exposure to sun can also cause the skin to lose its natural oils. Spending time in air-conditioned rooms for the greater part of the day can also aggravate this problem. Skin may also become very dry as we age. When we grow older, the production of the natural oils decreases. These oils regulate transepidermal water loss, which is the amount of water that is lost through the outermost layer of the skin. As a result, the amount of water loss through the epidermis increases. This causes the skin to turn dry and flaky. When the skin is dry, it may get inflamed. This may give rise to itching.
Treatment: The best way to tackle the problem of dry skin is to keep it moisturized. Use of emollients can certainly help in keeping the skin soft and supple. If your skin is very sensitive, it would be best to use skin care products that are specially meant for sensitive skin.
Allergic contact dermatitis is a hypersensitivity reaction that occurs due to contact with a substance that the immune system considers to be an allergen. Rubber, nickel, poison ivy, or preservatives used in certain cosmetic products are some of the common allergens. Irritant contact dermatitis occurs when the skin comes in direct contact with a substance that causes inflammation. At times, direct contact with chemicals used in soaps, shower gels, fabric softeners, detergents, or solvents can cause itchy rashes.
Treatment: The avoidance of the allergen or the irritant is the best way to deal with this problem. If your skin turns red and itchy after using any product, refrain from using it in future. The same applies to products that may cause an allergic reaction.
Eczema refers to a group of inflammatory skin conditions. Dyshidrotic eczema, which is also called vesicular eczema of hands or feet, is a form of eczema that is characterized by cracked skin and itchy blisters. The exact cause of this condition is not known, but it is believed that people with a history of contact dermatitis, asthma, or allergies may be susceptible. Frequent wetting of hands and feet may also worsen the condition.
Treatment: Keep the skin moisturized at all times. Anti-itch creams are often prescribed for tackling the issue of itching. In severe cases, steroids may be prescribed. The affected individual must refrain from scratching over the affected skin.
Psoriasis is a skin condition that is characterized by the development of inflamed patches of skin and silvery scales. It is believed that this condition occurs as a result of an immune response that leads to the accelerated growth of skin cells. An attack may be triggered by infections, injury to the skin, stress, dry skin, and use of certain medications. Palmoplantar psoriasis is a form of psoriasis that is characterized by formation of red patches and thickening and scaling on the palms and soles.
Treatment: Topical application of corticosteroids may prove beneficial. Light therapy and use of immunosuppressants or immunomodulator drugs may also be recommended for alleviating the symptoms.
Pitted keratolysis is a skin condition that is caused by a bacterial infection. It is characterized by formation of punched-out pits. This condition often affects people who suffer from hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating). Those who wear boots or closed shoes for long hours are likely to get affected. This condition may occasionally affect the palms of the hands.
Treatment: Since wearing occlusive footwear is one of the main contributory factors behind pitted keratolysis along the sole of the foot, it would be best to wear proper footwear. Topical application of antibiotics is often suggested as the causal organism is a bacterium.
Besides the aforementioned causes, other contributory factors behind an itching sensation in feet and hands include skin conditions such as photodermatitis (sun poisoning), scabies, or ringworm. Ringworm is a fungal infection that is characterized by itchy circular patches on the affected skin. The terms Tinea pedis and Tinea manuum refer to the fungal infection of the feet and the hands respectively. Intense itching could also be a sign of scabies, which is an infection caused by mites. The treatment of this condition involves the topical application of medicated creams. Since itching could be a sign of skin problems or a systemic disease, an appropriate diagnosis of its cause is required for successfully treating the condition. This can be done by taking into consideration the other symptoms that may accompany itching.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.