Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Why do I get itchy (and often painful) red marks on my hands and feet?"
I'm a 22 year old male college student. About 10-15 times a month I get red splotches on my hands. Sometimes there are one or two on my palms, other times, upwards of 15 different marks from my fingers all the way to my wrists. Often, they appear when I'm very stressed, but sometimes they show up when I'm perfectly relaxed. On good days they are itchy, on bad days they hurt a lot. This happens on my feet too, usually after I've been sweating.
It is most likely that what you are experiencing is something called dyshidrotic eczema. This is a form of inflammation of the skin of the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. It usually begins as small blisters under the skin and then proceeds to redness and itching and can lead to cracking and peeling of the skin. The exact cause of dyshidrotic eczema is unknown, but things that irritate the skin as well as stress and anxiety all probably play a role. The best initial treatment is to protect the skin. You should always apply a good skin moisturizer to all affected areas. You should also avoid harsh skin soaps and excessive showering with hot water. Immersing the hands in water or chemical seems to particularly be a problem. Therefore, whenever you are performing chores such as washing dishes or cleaning the house, it can be useful to wear protective cotton or rubber gloves. When you are having a flare-up of the condition, moisturizing is especially important, as is avoiding itching or scratching the skin, as this can lead to cracking and infection of the areas. Applying a steroid cream can be helpful, but if this does not work your primary care doctor can prescribe a stronger cream.
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