What Causes Itching Hands?

Eczema can cause itching hands.
Bug bites are among causes of itching hands.
Dermatitis herpetiformis from celiac disease causes tiny, fluid-filled blisters to form on the hands, arms and legs.
Excessive hand washing and allergies to soap can cause dryness.
Many people get itching hands from dryness, which can be remedied with a good moisturizer.
Article Details
  • Originally Written By: Scott Daniel
  • Revised By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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There is no single cause for itching hands, but some of the most common factors that contribute to the condition include dry skin, medical conditions like eczema and psoriasis, or external irritants including many common chemicals. Allergic reactions to fabrics, lotions, or soaps can have a similar effect, and some diseases that cause inflammation in different parts of the body can also lead to itching in various parts of the body, including the hands. People who are unsure of what causes their itching or who find that the condition lasts for a long time or seems to be getting worse are usually advised to seek medical help. Itching is rarely serious, but it can interfere with daily life and is usually pretty easy to fix once the cause has been uncovered.

Dry Skin

People who live in very dry climates or who spend a lot of time indoors in buildings with forced air systems often get itchy hands thanks to dry skin. Not drinking enough water or repeatedly washing hands with abrasive soaps can also cause this condition. The skin is a living part of the human body and it is made mostly of water; when skin cells become dehydrated, whether because of internal of external imbalances, the surface tends to shrink and pull away, causing discomfort and itching in many cases.

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Dryness can usually be remedied with a little bit of lotion or hand cream, though people with chronic itchiness sometimes have to make lifestyle changes to make sure their skin stays supple. Switching to a moisturizing soap can help, for instance, as can applying thick cream before bed; wearing gloves while doing dishes, yard work, or other intensive activities is also frequently recommended. Limiting caffeine and alcohol, both of which can dehydrate the body, may also be required.

Skin Conditions

Certain skin conditions, particularly eczema and psoriasis, can make the skin on various parts of the body itch and flake, often as part of an imbalanced immune response. Ordinary lotions don’t normally help in these cases. Unfortunately for many sufferers there isn’t always a cure, but different treatments are usually available to bring itching under control. Dermatologists and other skin specialists can sometimes prescribe topical ointments and creams to lessen flare-ups, and some internal medications — either oral or injection-based — might also bring relief.

Irritants

Itchiness that tends to come and go may be caused by environmental irritants. Anything from a new laundry detergent to acidic or astringent powders or juices can irritate the skin and cause itching if a person’s immune system reacts to something in the substance as a toxin. When this happens, the skin often gets red and itchy as the body basically sets up a barrier.

In most cases, simply washing the affected area to remove the irritant is all that’s needed to get the skin back to normal. Applying a neutral, unscented lotion can also be helpful. More serious rashes cause by foreign chemicals, especially those like bleach that can cause chemical burns or permanent damage, should usually be treated by a medical professional as an added precaution against tissue damage. Really serious itching is usually accompanied by intense pain and a feeling of burning, but not always.

Allergic Reactions

It’s also common for people to develop itchiness on their hands if they are allergic to something they’ve touched, like a particular oil or chemical. Someone who breaks out in an itchy rash after using a new lotion might be allergic to one of its ingredients, for example, and someone who feels uncomfortable after cutting into or handling a certain fruit or vegetable may be allergic to something in that food’s juice or essential oils. This tends to be most common where chili peppers and other spicy foods are concerned, but can happen with just about anything.

The biggest difference between an allergy and an irritant is the body’s response. An irritant is something that the body recognizes as a foreign substance and tries to prevent from entering or causing damage. In the case of allergies, the immune system confuses something harmless for something dangerous, and goes on the attack against it. Simply washing off the offending oil or juice won’t normally stop the itching in an allergy scenario, at least not for some time. Medicines known as antihistamines are usually the best way to calm these reactions, and are available as either topical creams or oral capsules.

Insect Bites and Burns

A number of different bug bites can also cause itching hands if the bites occur on the fingers, palms, or even wrists. Bites often cause itchiness on a large area of skin around the actual puncture, not just on the bite itself, and most peoples’ hands are small enough that one or two bites is often all it takes for the whole hand to become quite uncomfortable. Applying small amounts of ammonia to the affected area can help relieve the itch, as can a number of commercial bug bite remedies. As tempting as it is, scratching only tends to make things worse in most cases.

Sunburn and other types of minor burns can have a similar effect, particularly as the skin beneath the damaged tissue begins to heal. This process, known as “regeneration,” can cause a lot of itching as the outer layer of skin is essentially shed or sloughed off. Creams that contain aloe, menthol, or other cooling ingredients can relieve some of this discomfort.

Internal Inflammation

Itchy hands can also be caused by more serious conditions that may or may not have anything to do with the skin at all. The skin works as part of the body’s larger immune system, and as a result it sometimes can be impacted when there are problems elsewhere. Conditions like celiac disease and Crohn’s disease, both of which are linked to inflammation in the intestines, can cause redness, swelling, and at times itchiness or tingling in the hands and feet. Rheumatoid arthritis and certain cancers might also be at the root.

When to Get Help

Itching hands are rarely a sign of anything very serious, and in most cases can be corrected with simple at-home remedies. Just the same, most medical professionals recommend that people come in to get things checked out if they have itchiness that doesn’t respond to lotions or creams, doesn’t seem to go away on its own, or seems to be getting worse. Healthcare providers can then perform a range of diagnostic tests to figure out what is causing the problem and how to best fix it.

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Discuss this Article

anon953830
Post 8

My hands get very itchy. It is very annoying, but at the same time only happens when I'm getting money. Someone please help me. I put ice and it helps, but I would like to know why?

ysmina
Post 7
@donasmrs-- Yes, celiac is probably the cause. I know about this because my sister also has celiac disease. The problem is that you're continuing to eat gluten. You can't! Gluten will cause many symptoms for people with celiac disease. One of them is inflammation and I believe the itchy hands and feet is a result of that.

Advise with your doctor to make sure but I think it will go away if you follow your diet strictly.

donasmrs
Post 6
Can celiac disease cause itching hands and feet and no rash?

I've been put on a gluten-free diet by my doctor to treat my symptoms. It's been going fairly well so far, although I'm not exactly one-hundred percent gluten-free yet.

For the past two weeks though, I've developed a strange symptom. Both my hands and feet start itching out of nowhere. It usually goes away by the next day but can return at any time. I have no visible rash, swelling or anything else. I'm really confused. Could this be related to celiac disease in any way?

fBoyle
Post 5
I get itching hands (no rash though) only in winter time. I don't have extremely dry skin, but in winter, it becomes very dry because of the cold weather. It also doesn't help that I usually forget to wear gloves outside.

Recently though, I make sure to wear gloves whenever I go out and I've also started carrying a thick hand lotion with me everywhere. I apply it whenever I remember throughout the day. My hands have stopped itching since I started doing this.

giddion
Post 4

My best friend struggles with eczema. It sometimes causes hand swelling and itching, and it looks very unattractive.

The parts of her hands that are affected turn red and develop pustules. Sometimes, a large area of the hand will swell. It almost looks as if she has suffered severe burns.

She has found that oatmeal baths are great for relieving the itch. Prescription strength steroid cream also helps.

OeKc05
Post 3

@seag47 – I also have a problem with dry skin on my hands. Mine occurs mostly during the winter, though. I have itching hands but no allergic rash.

My skin will get so dry that my knuckles will crack and bleed. If I catch the condition before the cracking stage, then I can treat it by putting an unscented moisturizing lotion on it several times a day and reapplying it after each time that I wash my hands. If they have already cracked, then I cover the cracked areas with liquid bandages.

JackWhack
Post 2

I hate getting bitten by mosquitoes and ants, and I really hate when the bites are on my hands. Itching and swelling always follow, and hands are a really annoying place to have itchy spots.

Mosquito bites swell up and look like they are filled with fluid. They are incredibly itchy, and if I keep scratching them, they start to bleed.

Ant bites are painful, and they don't begin to itch until the next day, when the pain has subsided. For all kinds of insect bites, I use an antihistamine cream as soon as possible. This keeps swelling to a minimum and works great at relieving the itch.

seag47
Post 1

Last month, my hands were itching and swelling every night. I had started using a new scented hand lotion, but it took me awhile to realize that this is what was causing the problems.

The lotion was raspberry scented, and at first, it seemed to help with my dry skin issues. My hands had been flaky because of excessive washing, and I wanted to try an ultra moisturizing lotion to fix the issue.

One night, I forgot to put the lotion on, and I noticed that my hands did not itch or swell. That's when it hit me that I must be allergic to the lotion.

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