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Palmoplantar pruritis, or itchy hands and feet, is a relatively common symptom that can be caused by a number of relatively common conditions:

  • Diabetic neuropathy can cause burning, itching, tingling and later numbness, first in the feet, and later in the hands.
  • Psoriasis can cause itching and the formation of white pustules on the palms and soles. It often spreads to the fingernails and toenails.
  • About 25 percent of people who have hepatitis B or hepatitis C develop palmoplantar pruritis.
  • Itchy hands and feet can be an expression of gallbladder disease.
  • Itchy hands and feet after exposure to water, a combination of itching and wrinkling skin, can occur in people who carry a gene for cystic fibrosis but don't have the disease.
  • Two forms of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma called Mycosis fungoides and the Sézary syndrome can cause palmoplantar itching as one of their early symptoms. In these forms of cancer the skin inflammation spreads all over the body and into the lymph nodes. These conditions are most common after the age of 60.
  • T-cell lymphoma causes intense itching of palms and soles. This form of cancer is common in younger people, in their twenties and thirties.
  • Aquagenic syringeal acrokeratoderma is a condition of itching and pain in the palms and soles that has to do with enlarged sweat duct pores.
  • Polymorphic eruption of pregnancy is a condition like hives that usually breaks out everywhere except that palms and soles of the feet, but can break out on them as well.
  • Pachydermatous eosinophilic dermatitis is a condition that causes widespread skin irritation, with thickening and itching of the skin on the palms and soles.

  • Malignant acanthosis nigricans, palmoplantar keratoderma, bullous dermatoses, lymphomatoid papulosis, edematous scarring vasculitic panniculitis, Norwegian scabies, primary systemic amyloidosis, necrolytic migratory erythema, infective dermatitis, pancreatic panniculitis, generalized pruritus, Lesser-Trelat syndrome, and acquired ichthyosis cause itching and thickening of the skin on the hands and feet in response to an underlying malignancy, usually of the stomach or pancreas. 

The bottom line is that itching palms and soles can be a symptom of any of several dozen serious health conditions, each of which causes many other symptoms. It's essential, sometimes lifesaving, to get the underlying condition treated. This can save your life. But it's also possible to ditch the itch.

Here's how you do that:

  • Avoid soaking your hands and feet in water, especially hot water. This means no washing dishes by hand (which may not be hard for you to give up) and also no soaking in a hot tub or taking long hot showers.
  • Regardless of the cause of palm and sole irritation, dry skin invites infection. Use a water-based or skin-identical moisturizer on your hands and feet twice a day. You can recognize a water-based moisturizer by the fact that it lists water as its first or second ingredient. It should not tingle or make your skin cold.
  • Use gentle soap when you wash your hands and feet. If the product makes big bubbles, it is a detergent,  which can harm your skin.
  • If you have a  problem with thickening skin (and in most of the conditions, you would), ask your doctor about the use of a keratolytic. A keratolytic is a product that strips away dead skin without harming the live skin beneath it. One of the safest, least expensive, and most readily available keratolytics is salicylic acid, which is chemically similar to Aspirin. You can get concentrated salicylic acid on Amazon and from some beautician supply shops, but use creams or lotions for slower, gentler, more predictable action on your skin. You want to get rid of excess, hard skin, not to harm the healthy skin, or healthier skin, beneath the top layer.

There are many reasons to eat healthy, but in these conditions, diet usually doesn't make a critical difference. The exception is food allergies, which would usually cause itching not limited to your hands and feet.

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