Do you keep getting small, itchy bumps on hands and/or feet that come and go? Don’t panic. This is a problem that afflicts a significant number of people. The bumps and hives can get so itchy, or even painful, that you have trouble using your hands and walking, not to mention catching sleep.
What Causes Itchy Bumps On Hands?
The most common underlying cause of small, itchy bumps on hands and feet is a skin condition known as dyshidrotic eczema.
Also referred to as pompholyx, vesicular eczema, foot-and-hand eczema, or simply dyshidrosis, dyshidrotic eczema is a common type of eczema.
It produces tiny blisters on fingers and palms, and sometimes the toes and sole of feet. The blisters are often very itchy.
Signs and Symptoms of Dyshidrotic Eczema
Dyshidrosis is most notable for small, itchy bumps on the hands (usually on the sides of the fingers and palms) and sometimes on the sole of the feet. They bumps occur in clusters and are often fluid-filled. It is also not uncommon for the blisters to become very large and spread to the back of the hands and legs in some severe cases. The blisters are often preceded by intense itching and burning sensation in the hands and fingers.
Some people also experience changes in nail color and thickness as well as higher than normal rate of sweating in the surrounding skin. As with all forms of eczema, there will be some level of redness in the affected sections of the skin.
The blisters typically go away in 2-3 weeks, but the skin may remain reddened and tender for a little longer. As the skin heals, it is also likely to get dry and flaky or even peel off.
The affected area of skin can get infected, especially when a great deal of scratching is involved. Some signs of infection are:
- Pus. If those itchy bumps on hands or feet are oozing pus, chances are that there is an infection
- Golden crust
- Swelling in the skin around the blisters
What Causes Dyshidrotic Eczema?
With dyshidrotic eczema identified as a common cause of small, itchy bumps on hands and feet, you may then want to know what causes it, and ways in which you can prevent it. The exact cause of dyshidrotic eczema is not yet clear. The condition seems to erupt more frequently during certain times of the year. Experts thus believe that the condition may be related to seasonal allergies, such as hay fever. Among the factors that can trigger or worsen dyshidrotic eczema are:
- Stress. You are more likely to develop dyshidrosis if you are under stress.
- Fungal infection in the skin. Fungal infection may be a secondary factor for the itchy bumps on hands associated with dyshidrotic eczema. It may involve the hands themselves or other parts of the body, such as the toes.
- Contact with allergens and irritants. Dyshidrosis may also be a sign that your body has come into contact with certain substances that irritate the skin or trigger an allergic reaction. Metals such as nickel and cobalt are common culprits in addition to detergents, latex, soaps, household chemicals (e.g. bleach), shampoos, and perfumes.
- Excessive sweating. Sweaty hands and feet are known to trigger dyshidrotic eczema. This can, for example, occur during summer and spring, and in warmer climates. Some people suffer from a condition known hyperhidrosis which makes their hands and feet to naturally sweat more than usual.
- HIV infection. According to WebMD, HIV infection can also trigger dyshidrotic eczema.
- Intravenous immunoglobulin infusions (IVIG). This commonly used treatment for immune system diseases (and thus a weakened immune system) can also cause dyshidrosis as a side-effect.
Are You at Risk of Dyshidrotic Eczema?
Some people are more prone to developing dyshidrosis than others. You are more susceptible to this condition if you:
- Are a woman. Women are twice as much prone to dyshidrotic eczema than men.
- Are stressed. Both physical and emotional stress can trigger itchy bumps on hands and other symptoms associated with dyshidrosis.
- 20-40 years old. The condition appears more in adults aged between 20 and 40 years.
- Have atopic dermatitis or allergies, such as hay fever.
- Are constantly exposing your hands or feet to the water. Salon professionals, nurses, dishwashers are some of the people that are particularly at risk.
- Work with cement. Any other job that exposes you to chromium, cobalt, or nickel can as well put you at heightened risk of dyshidrosis.
- Have a family history of eczema.
- Are receiving intravenous immunoglobulin infusions.
Home Remedies for Itchy Bumps on Hands due to Dyshidrosis
What should I do about these little bumps on my hands that itch like crazy? Well, there is no cure for dyshidrosis. On a good note, though, the blisters go away on their own within a couple weeks, and without leaving behind noticeable scars. In the meantime, you can control the symptoms using the following home treatments:
- Take a lukewarm bath or shower every day. Use a mild, non-scented soap such as Dove. After the shower, pat your skin dry; wiping the towel across the surface of your skin can be just as irritating as harsh soaps and other irritants.
- Moisturize your skin regularly to strengthen it against irritation. Do this immediately after a shower to seal in moisture; and numerous times throughout the day. Use thick creams and lotions, such as Eucerin and Lubriderm, or petroleum jelly. Make sure the moisturizer is free of dyes, fragrances, and alcohol. Soaking in a witch hazel bath may also help.
- Put on cotton-lined gloves when working with water or in moist areas e.g. These will also come in handy when handling potential irritants e.g. when washing your hair or washing clothes.
- Avoid any known irritants and allergens. Examples include pet dander, dust mites (in carpets), and molds. You may also find that some soaps, shampoos, and detergents irritate your skin.
- Apply a wet, cold compress on the bumps for 15 minutes. This will help to relieve the itching. Repeat several times each day.
- Don’t scratch or burst the blisters. Those itchy bumps on hands and feet can easily get infected, leading to more complications, and that is the last thing you want to experience, isn’t it?
- Take over the counter antihistamines. Antihistamines such as cetirizine (Zyrtec) and fexofenadine (Allegra) can help to relieve the itching.
- Wear cotton socks. This will help to prevent excessive sweating of the feet. Breathable leather shoes are also a must-have. It also helps to put on open-toe shoes whenever you can.
Dyshidrotic Eczema Treatment
If the home treatments mentioned above don’t relieve the symptoms, you may want to talk to your doctor or a dermatologist. Several treatment approaches exist, the appropriateness of which will be determined based on the severity of your flare-up. Your doctor may also deem it necessary to use more than one treatment. Here are some common treatments for dyshidrotic eczema:
- Corticosteroid Cream – Topical corticosteroid creams, such as Desoximetasone (Topicort), may help to relieve swelling.
- Antihistamines – Your doctor may prescribe antihistamines such as Loratadine (Claritin) and Cetirizine (Zyrtec) to relieve itching.
- Prednisone pills – Severe cases of dyshidrosis may require treatment with steroid drugs.
- Antibiotics – Antibiotics may also be necessary if your skin is infected.
- Immunomodulators – These are medicines that suppress the immune system and thus control swelling and itching. Examples are tacrolimus (Protopic) and pimecrolimus (Elidel).
- Other treatments: Severe cases of dyshidrotic eczema may benefit from treatments such as light therapy, coal tar preparation, and botulinum toxin injection (to control excessive sweating in hands and feet).