Why does my wrist itch so much? If the question sounds familiar, you are not alone. Itchy wrists affect many people at some point in their life. The itching may or may not have an accompanying rash. Read on to discover some of the possible causes of an itchy wrist with or without rash.
Itchy Wrist Superstition – Itchy Wrist Meaning
- 1 Itchy Wrist Superstition – Itchy Wrist Meaning
- 2 Itchy Wrist Causes
- 2.1 1. Irritation and Allergic Reaction to Wrist Accessories and Clothing
- 2.2 2. Excessive Exposure to Irritants and Water
- 2.3 3. Medications
- 2.4 4. Scabies
- 2.5 5. Diabetes
- 2.6 6. Wrist Eczema
- 2.7 7. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF)
- 2.8 8. Lichen Planus
- 2.9 9. Tattoo Itching
- 2.10 10. Dry Skin
- 3 Home Remedies for Itchy Wrists
- 4 References
What does it mean when your wrist itches? There exist many superstitions that try to give meaning to everyday occurrences and experiences, but I couldn’t find any itchy wrist superstition.
However, with the wrist being so close to the palm, I found one myth about itchy palms very interesting.
It goes: if you get itchy palms, it means that you will either lose or get money. The itching side determines whether money will be paid out or received. Itching on the right-hand palm means money will be received out while itching on the left-hand means money will be paid out.
Is this old wives tale true? Maybe, maybe not. It is up to you to decide if you believe the myth or not.
Itchy Wrist Causes
Superstition aside and coming back to the question, “why does my wrist itch”, here are some of the possible causes of wrist itch:
1. Irritation and Allergic Reaction to Wrist Accessories and Clothing
It is not uncommon for some people to develop itchy wrist as a result of allergic reaction to wrist accessories, a condition referred to as allergic contact dermatitis.
Watches and bracelets are common culprits for an itchy rash on wrist. This is especially true for those that are made of cobalt and nickel. You should suspect allergic reaction from wearing a watch if the itching occurs on one side only.
An itchy rash on both wrists could be an indication of allergic reaction to wristbands, sweater or shirt cuffs, etc.
It is also possible for this kind of wrist accessories to cause itchy wrists without the involvement of an allergic reaction.
A common scenario is where wrist accessories are worn too tight or over an extended period of time. This may cause an accumulation of sweat and moisture, which then irritate the skin, culminating in wrist itching. If sharp or rough, wrist accessories can also chaff and irritate the skin.
2. Excessive Exposure to Irritants and Water
Another possible cause of itchy wrists with or without a rash is excessive exposure to common irritants especially soaps and detergents. Scented and antibacterial soaps as well as soap powders are common culprits but shampoos and washing up liquids can also be to blame.
These irritants cause direct damage to the skin, leading to a condition known as irritant contact dermatitis. The itching is often accompanied by dry skin in the affected areas of skin. Washing very vigorously can compound the problem by inducing mechanical damage to the skin.
To stop the itching, try moisturizing the area with a good quality lotion or cream.
If you recently used a topical medication to treat wrist problems e.g. soreness due to carpal tunnel syndrome, then irritation from the medication could be to blame for an itchy wrist. Although certain oral medications can as well cause itchy skin, the itching is usually generalized and unlikely to be confined to the wrists only.
Another common cause of itchy wrists is scabies. This is an infestation of the skin with a tiny parasite called human itch mite, or Sarcoptes scabei. This mite burrows into the top layer of the skin where they lay their eggs.
Scabies is characterized by an extremely itchy rash resulting from an allergic reaction to the mites as well as their feces. The rash is notable for small, fluid-filled, pimple-like bumps and blisters.
Upon watching closely, you may be able to observe faint grayish lines. These are left by female mites which occasionally burrow just below the surface of the skin.
Scabies is easily transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. According to the RightDiagnosis website, it is primarily transmitted through sexual contact. Crowded places, with lots of skin-to-skin contact over a long-time (not a quick hug or handshake), can also lead to rapid spread of this contagious condition. Infected furniture, towels, and beddings can also facilitate a new infection.
How to Treat and stop Itchy Wrists Caused by Scabies
Doctors typically prescribe scabicide creams for the treatment of scabies. Your partner – or family members – also need to be treated to prevent re-infection.
Washing all your clothing, towels, and bedding with hot water is also recommended as these items can as well contain scabies mites. Vacuuming carpets, rugs, and furniture is also helpful and so is sealing pillows and toys in plastic bags over one or more weeks.
According to the Right Diagnosis website, itchy wrist could be a sign of diabetes. This kind of itching is attributed to a skin condition seen in diabetics known as eruptive xanthomatosis. This makes the hands and feet itchy. Your arms, legs, and buttocks could as well be affected.
The itchy goes away as soon as the diabetes is put under control.
Eruptive xanthomatosis is notable for the following signs:
- Small, tender, yellow, often itchy bumps with defined borders on the shoulders, buttocks, elbows, knees, hands, legs, or feet.
- Redness around the bumps
- High levels of cholesterol.
6. Wrist Eczema
Atopic eczema, or atopic dermatitis, may be the underlying cause of an itchy wrist. This is an inflammatory dermal (skin) condition with a genetic basis that causes changes in the skin characterized by the following symptoms:
- Itchy skin
- Small watery blisters
Note: These symptoms may not necessarily occur at the same time.
Atopic eczema can appear in any area of the skin but it is seen more on the face, elbows, knees, wrists, and neck.
Although there is no cure for atopic eczema, you can control by moisturizing the skin while staying away from potential irritants. These include soaps and detergents, dust, heat, and stress.
7. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF)
A red itchy rash on the wrist may be a sign of Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF). This is a contagious bacterial infection caused by Rickettsia rickettsii. The bacteria is transmitted to humans through tick bites. The infection is distributed throughout the US, Mexico, Canada, and South America.
The first symptoms of RMSF appear within 1 of a bite by an infected tick but some cases take as long as 2 weeks. The disease typically begins suddenly. The patient develops a high fever that is accompanied by a severe headache, chills, and muscle pain.
Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, declined appetite, fatigue, and reddened eyes.
How RMSF Rash Looks Like and Develops
The rash associated with Rocky Mountain spotted fever usually shows up 3-5 days after the onset of fever and headache, but it may take up to 10 days to develop.
According to the New Zealand Dermatological Society, the rash begins as red – often itchy – spots or patches on the wrists and ankles and sometimes on the palms and soles. These spots then progressively spread to other parts of the body, usually towards the torso (trunk).
As the disease progressives, it is common for the initial red spots to change their appearance and look like bruises, small lumps (papules), or small purple blotches under the skin.
Treatment of Rocky Mountain spotted fever
RMSF is potentially fatal if not treated immediately. If it is found to be the underlying cause of an itchy wrist, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics.
Doxycycline is usually the first line of treatment for this disease. It is however not suitable for use during pregnancy. Some people are also allergic to Doxycycline. In either of these two cases, your doctor will prescribe another antibiotic, usually Chloramphenicol.
8. Lichen Planus
Red Itchy bumps on wrists and ankles are a common symptom of lichen planus. This is a non-contagious skin condition that is seen fairly commonly in adults. It is characterized by small, shiny, raised, purplish-red, itchy bumps with flat tops.
The bumps usually appear on the inner wrists, around the ankles, and on the lower back. They can, however, cover more area of the body including the scalp, mouth, and the genital area. Upon looking closely, you may also be able to see white streaks that are irregularly spread between the bumps.
The exact cause of lichen planus is not yet known, but scientists believe it has links to body’s immune response. In other words, it could be an autoimmune reaction.
Is There A Cure For Lichen Planus?
There is no cure for lichen planus. It goes away by itself within 2 years. Your doctor may, however, prescribe some medications to keep the wrist itching and other symptoms at bay.
Steroid creams and antihistamines are usually given. Other treatments such as corticosteroid pills and PUVA light therapy may be necessary for severe cases.
9. Tattoo Itching
Although not a fairly common cause of an itchy wrist, tattoos could be to blame for the problem. Tattoos itch as part of the healing process but even old, healed tattoos can start itching all of a sudden. If you have a tattoo on your wrist, you likely know the culprit. Read more: Tattoo Itching.
10. Dry Skin
An itchy wrist with no rash may have something to do with dry skin. Together with the back side of the hand, the wrist is particularly exposed to environmental factors, says According to Jeffrey Wint, MD an orthopedic surgeon based in Springfield, MA. This makes them a common trouble spot for winter itch, or xerotic eczema if you like.
Protecting the hands with gloves, coupled with moisturizing can help curb the itching.
Home Remedies for Itchy Wrists
As we have seen, some underlying causes of wrist itching such as eczema atopic eczema have no known cure. Continuous treatment is usually necessary to control the appearance of the symptoms. There are several home remedies that you may find useful in soothing the itch, including:
- Oatmeal. Oatmeal is not only a good breakfast meal, it can help to reduce itching on the wrist and other parts of the body when applied topically. Soak some ground oats in warm water, then dip your wrists inside the paste – or applied it to your wrist instead for an instant relief.
- Tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is also a good home remedy for wrist itching. It is particularly useful for the rash associated with scabies. Tea tree oil helps to kill the human itch mite and may, in fact, be more effective than some anti-parasitic drugs as the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine says.
- Aloe vera. Aloe vera has antibacterial and soothing properties that make it beneficial for most itchy rashes on the wrist and other parts of the body. Snip a fresh leaf from an aloe vera plant or buy a good quality aloe vera gel. My favorite is the one by Amara Organics.
- Neem oil. Neem oil has amazing healing properties that make it not only good for treatment of acne but also skin problems such as rashes. It is particularly recommended itchy wrists due to scabies.
- Clove oil. Scabies rash on wrists also responds well to treatment with clove oil – applied topically. Simply dab a few drops of the oil several times daily.
Persistent wrist itching that doesn’t resolve even after trying these home remedies should be examined by your doctor.
- British Skin Foundation: Eczema (Atopic Eczema)
- British Skin Foundation: Lichen Planus
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Rocky Mountains Spotted Fever
- Collective Wizdom: Rash on Both Wrists? – Causes and Top 10 Natural Remedies
- New Zealand Dermatological Society: Xanthomas
- OddRandomThoughts.com: Itching Palms and Other Body Parts, What Does it Mean?
- WebMD: Why Do My Hands and Feet Always Itch?