Itchy fingers and hands can be annoying, at least, and dangerous, at worst. We use our hands for so many actions throughout the day, that painful and inflamed fingers will inevitably impede simple practices such as holding a pen or typing. Itchy fingers can indicate an allergy or something more serious. Under most circumstances, self-care and home remedies can alleviate mild to moderate issues.
Causes: Excessive Handwashing
The very act that helps prevent the spread of disease can also make our hands more prone to infection. Overzealous washing dries out the skin. Resulting itchiness leads to scratching which, if it breaks the skin, leaves sores vulnerable to bacteria and other infectious organisms. People in industries or with hobbies that require washing the hands more than a few times a day should make sure to use a moisturizing soap with fruit oils. Studies show that the peel of the mandarin orange, for one, regulates skin moisture and smooths rough skin.
Many products keep homes and businesses clean but are tough on hands, leaving them irritated and swollen. In addition to a prescribed corticosteroid or antifungal medication, one of the best ways to protect yourself from harsh chemicals is to wash your hands with mild soap after cleaning, even if you wore gloves. Follow that up with a thick, creamy lotion with aloe, to further soothe irritation.
Pain and burning or itching sensations without clear instigation is often the result of psoriasis. This chronic disease causes excess production of skin cells, which build up and become red, scaly, and usually itchy. In addition to medication and stress relief exercises that can help minimize flareups, gently exfoliating skin with a loofah can also ease itchy fingers. It is best to speak to a dermatologist if you have this condition; in addition to possible prescriptions, a moisturizing lotion containing salicylic acid may help.
Cytokines are messenger proteins that send signals to regulate immunity and inflammation. Research shows they can be sources of itching in the fingers and throughout the body. When this happens at night, it can interrupt sleep. This is one cause of nocturnal pruritis — itchiness at night. Some experts recommend taking melatonin supplements to help counter the disturbance or enable you to sleep through those itchy stages.
What do jewelry, coins, and zippers have in common? Nickel is an element that’s present in many items and may be the cause of an unexplained allergic reaction that causes itchiness in the fingers and hands. If you suspect your jewelry is the culprit, try hypoallergenic metals or alternatives such as fabric or leather. If you work in an industry that requires you to touch metals, wear gloves for protection.
Diabetes can cause peripheral nerves to degenerate due to poor circulation, leading to the malfunction of itch-sensing neurons. Itching in the fingers and feet can be severe enough to cause lesions, which further complicate the situation. Doctors recommend controlling glucose levels, keeping dry, keeping itchy skin moisturized to reduce chapping, and treating cuts immediately, so they do not worsen.
Sarcoptes scabiei are tiny mites that cause scabies, a reaction to the feces and eggs they leave behind after burrowing into the skin. These mites especially love the skin between fingers and toes, and while bumps or blisters may initially be visible, itching between and throughout the fingers generally does not develop until a couple of weeks later. Scabies is contagious, but creams and oral medications can get rid of the mites and rashes.
Sometimes called pompholyx, dyshidrotic eczema is most common during the spring allergy season, and can last for weeks. The edges of the fingers get red and itchy with painful blisters that can make the skin crack as they begin to dry out. To reduce itchiness, apply a cold compress for 10 to 15 minutes, and then use a shea butter- or oat oil-based moisturizer for hydration.
Varicella zoster, the chickenpox virus, causes shingles. It affects the nerve cells and can cause burning, shooting pains, and itching fingers. Those who had the chickenpox are at risk for getting shingles as they get older and their immune systems become less robust. People not inoculated against the infection can contract it from a person with shingles. Numbness or itching of the fingers or hands include blisters that can burst and scab over. In addition to a prescription, soaking the hands in an oatmeal bath or calamine lotion may provide relief.
In rare cases, itchiness signals cancer or the body’s response to certain cancer treatments. Studies show that people with skin cancer or leukemia are more likely to experience pruritus that individuals without the disease. If you do not know what is causing recurring itchiness, the best course of treatment for itchy fingers is a visit to the doctor.