Skin damage, allergic reactions certain infections could account for peeling skin on feet and toes. While some cause itching and blistering cause pain, others may go without itching.
This article will shine a spotlight on various factors and reasons why this happens problem occurs in children and adults. In the course, you will get an insight into the symptoms, relief, treatment and useful procedures comprising home remedies.
Causes including dryness
Dryness in the skin is primary and widely thought to be the main of peeling but infections, conditions and syndromes are can cause this problem. So what causes peeling feet?
1. Skin damage
How often does your skin get damaged? Peeling is one of the common signs of damaged skin. It may occur after sun burning, through harmful or burning chemicals, hot objects, heat and so on. Peeling sometimes could start at the inception of healing.
2. Fungal infections (yeast)
Second, this problem is to do with fungal infections. There are two or three fungi that can infect the skin and cause peeling and itching among other signs.
Tinea pedis – Athlete’s Foot
Athlete’s foot or Tinea pedis is a fungal infection associated with feet and not really athletes as it is supposed. Although some individuals rarely have observable signs of Athlete’s foot, the itching will be a noticeable sign for some people. Itching is accompanied with peeling off of skin between toes and it can occur frequently.
If it is not discovered that you have an Athlete’s foot, your sides of feet will start to crack and bleed which causes feet pain. However, blistering is uncommon with Tinea pedis.
3. Dermatitis or Eczema
Dermatitis encompasses a range of skin inflammation including contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, stasis eczema, among other types. “Early stages of dermatitis are characterized by red, dry, and itchy skin,” [webmd.com] which are typical of peeling feet on hands and feet as well. They include:
Atopic dermatitis is the most common of the other types of dermatitis or Eczema. Its occurrence is by far common in children but it would affect anyone. Furthermore, it is more severe and has longer-lasting signs on the skin but it is not contagious.
Typically, atopic dermatitis causes itching, scaling, swelling and sometimes formation of blisters. In fact, atopic eczema is a “very itchy rash accompanied by peeling, and affects multiple parts of the body, especially hands, feet, face, and chest.” [steadyhealth.co]
Does contact dermatitis cause skin damage? Unlike other types of Eczema, contact dermatitis is a localized type of dermatitis characterized by itchy rashes and burning sensation. Contact dermatitis can further be classified as an irritant or allergic or photocontact contact dermatitis.
According to WebMD, irritant dermatitis is the most common and causes damage to making it become dry especially after washing. Water, harsh alkaline soaps, detergents, low humidity in the air are all examples of irritant contact dermatitis.
Exfoliative dermatitis or Erythroderma
It is a more complex form of dermatitis whose irritation or on inflammation of skin causes peeling and redness over a larger area of the body.
Research has shown the occurrence of Erythroderma due combination of seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis certain drug reactions and cancer namely leukemia, and lymphoma. Does it actually cause peeling foot? Yes. When the reddening has spread over a large area, “massive peeling of the skin follows the reddening and inflammation. The skin may be rough and scaly,” [healthline.com] hence dryness that leads to itching, peeling, and pain around nail skin.
Individuals affected by erythroderma could also experience fever and chills. Moreover, complications may develop in blood or body fluids in case of severe symptoms of skin shedding and ‘exfoliation’.
4. Hand-foot syndrome (medic. Palmar-Plantar Erythrodysesthesia)
Although less common, this syndrome is normally associated with chemotherapy treatments (using drugs) administered to cancer patients. It primarily causes pain and swelling in both the hands and feet. In addition, this swelling is symptomized by ‘tightening feeling’ and tingling sensation in the skin where swelling occurs. Redness is also reportedly a sign that may be confused with that from sunburn hence burning.
Thick calluses usually form on the foot soles and blistering on palms. This makes the feet become dry and hard to touch.
Now, in severe conditions of this syndrome, the feet may start to peels forming flakes and cracks on affected foot causing severe pain accompanied with “blisters, ulcers, or sores on the skin” [cancer.net]. These signs may vary from one person to another.
Examples of drugs that lead to these side effects include Floxuridine, Cabozantinib (Cabometyx, Cometriq), Capecitabine, Cytarabine (Cytosar-U), Liposomal doxorubicin, just to name a few. What these drugs do is cause damage to the tissues. Something special about hand-foot syndrome is that some individuals would not react to the medications.
5. Peeling skin syndrome
Generally, “peeling skin syndrome is a group of rare inherited skin disorders characterized by continual, spontaneous skin peeling,” [rarediseases.org] which is also a rare condition in humans. One of the contributing factors of this uncommon syndrome can be attributed to genetic changes especially the changes occurring in distinct genes.
Before we move to look at symptoms of the syndrome, here are facts about this condition which can be helpful in getting a better understanding.
This condition has 2 major subcategories i.e. non-inflammatory type (A) and an inflammatory type (B). Basically, type A does not produce symptoms such as itching whereas inflammatory type B is characterized by inflammation which may lead to itching, irritation and symptoms-like. This means the inflammatory type will most likely cause skin damage that leads to itching as NORD’s report frames it as being a “deleterious loss-of-function changes in the corneodesmosin gene, CDSN.”
When the symptoms of this condition are limited to the arms and legs, then we say or refer to that as an “acral extremities” or simply acral peeling skin syndrome. This form is caused by the transglutaminase-5 (TGM5) gene which is responsible for producing a localized symptom or symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms
- Painless peeling or ‘shedding’ of the horny skin layer (outermost layer)
- The peelings may come out as sheets such as in the case of a severe sunburn,
- Itching sometimes may occur,
- Pain marked by hand and feet blisters especially at birth or childhood,
- Familial short stature “short height” or delayed growth,
- Hair growth that can be plucked out easily, etc.
There could be other complex symptoms subject to chromosomal studies. Nevertheless, all of these syndrome types or forms may are inherited recessive traits i.e. traits which can be carried in a person’s genes without the traits appearing in that person. Though rare, both sexes are affected in more or less equal numbers of a given population but should not be confused with Hand-foot syndrome.
6. Due to scarlet fever
An infection common in children yet responsible this problem including the foot toes. We shall look at its symptoms in the next section.
7. Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome (SSSS)
Scalded skin syndrome is yet another syndrome that is caused by Staphylococcus (species of bacteria). This symptom is characterized by blistering and shedding of skin over large areas due to a serious staph infection.
Besides the shedding other signs and symptoms include
- Blistering and pain in affected area
- ‘Slipping away’ of skin with little rubbing using a pencil eraser or hand
It is common for young children including the infants. Before treatment, a test is recommended to confirm Nikolsky sign and blistering.
Other causes of peeling hands and feet include deficiency of particular body vitamins, certain viral infections, et cetera.
In children including hands
Feet and hand peeling in children can be very serious owing to the fact that children have generally a more sensitive skin especially to the external environmental conditions and factors.
Sunburn can affect anyone. In children peeling is more likely to occur even before post-sunburn symptoms. It usually causes pain, itching and can cause dryness.
2. Harsh cleaning soaps
You may have been shocked by the unlikely behavior of your child’s skin reaction to certain cleaning soaps, detergents or solutions. Well, it happens not by any chance but is the fact that some soaps can strip skin of its moisture resulting in dryness. That is one reason.
The other reason is some these cleaning agents have perfumes, fragrances. When the skin comes into contact added ingredients allergic reactions are likely to happen (contact dermatitis).
3. Scarlet fever
Scarlet fever in children is symptomatic of very red and sore throat, a fever, and red skin rash. According to Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, CDCP, the rash breaks out due to a toxic substance that strep bacteria (causative agent) produce. This rash usually affects the underarms, elbows and may spread to the groin area consequently spreading to the whole body.
If the rash persists for several weeks or without treating it, peeling could occur especially the skin around the toes and tips of fingers. This infection mostly affects children between 5 – 15 years.
4. Peeling skin syndrome
As we mentioned earlier this syndrome is rare but may occur among the children of the young generation.
5. Can Kawasaki disease be a cause
In children, the most usual symptom is high fever and red patchy rash both lasting for almost a week. If it goes untreated, Kawasaki can cause complications. These are some signs expected during its development.
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
- Mild swelling of hands and feet
- Redness and mild peels from the toes and fingers
- Yellowing of skin (jaundice)
- Dry cracked lips
- Red tongue and or throat
If your child does not recover and in turn develops and shows signs of pain in the abdomen, joints diarrhea, vomiting hurry up and take them to the clinic for diagnosis.
Other causes in children
Some factors which are responsible and have already discussed include
- Certain therapy procedures and treatments
- Reactions to certain drugs
- Certain vitamin deficiency especially if skin peels from both feet and hands
- Atopic dermatitis
Itchy peeling feet
Itching and peeling on skin feet and toes can go together simultaneously. If that is the case then certain conditions and infections could be responsible include atopic dermatitis, Athlete’s foot, and sunburn. Confirm with the rest of symptoms.
When no itching
What does it mean when peeling occurs without itching but still dry? Do not panic. It is common especially under the feet and between toes or where the skin is prominently rough and thick. This presentation provides the cell receptors shield against inflammation. Otherwise, both children and adults as well can experience it. “Acral Peeling skin syndrome” or non-inflammatory peeling syndrome, reactions to certain medications and allergens are examples of conditions where least or no itching can occur.
Nevertheless, it is advisable to seek help from your doctor if you are wondering and don’t know what to do.
If you need treatment in order to address this issue then it would be worth it to visit a podiatrist to address the causes and analyze the symptoms. Treaatments include the following.
1. try the steroidal drug
These drugs will not be curing the causative agents but instead, bring down severe or chronic inflammation of the skin. A good example of conditions which necessitate steroid drugs includes exfoliative dermatitis, contact dermatitis, and atopic dermatitis among others.
2. Antibiotic medicines
Secondly, once diagnosed and prognosis are achieved or causes are known then your doctor will prescribe antibiotic creams, drugs or medicines to kill bacteria causing skin peeling on feet.
Most antibiotic medicines available in creams and gels are applied externally and directly to affected feet. Antifungals react and thereby killing the microorganisms known to be causing foot problem in question.
Some may be orally administered if the creams do not produce any changes.
In addition, antibiotics will ensure that infection-causing microorganisms do not worsen or bring about complications and interfere with healing. Under some medical conditions, you may be requested by your doctor to stop using other medicines such as immuno-suppressants.
3. Pain relievers
If you experience extreme pain, blistering after peeling of feet skin see your doctor who knows prescription medicines to give.
4. Treatment using topical antifungal medication
Before attempting any treatment for peeling feet skin or any infection that you are doubting to be caused by a fungus go for diagnosis to confirm. Dermatologists recommend this kind of systematic approach to avoid the side effects which are produced as reactions. Namely itching, burning, flatulence, rash, indigestion, etc.
Reportedly, treatments to some of the causes we have looked at so far have not yet been discovered or just are untreatable. An example is Acral Peeling Skin Syndrome (APSS).
While some homemade treatments can treat, most home remedies for foot peeling are meant to address peeling accompanied with mild symptoms and more so when the causes are well known: sunburnt skin peeling, after fire burns, hot objects etc.
1. Oatmeal soak
If your feet peels and itches constantly then you need this soak to reduce irritation which is the reason why your feet feel itchy or actually itch.
- Add one cup of oatmeal a foot tub filled with warm water.
- Clean your feet, let them dry and then soak them in the soothing bath water for 30 minutes.
- Rinse afterward with clean water and pat dry with a soft towel.
- Apply a gentle moisturizer afterward to keep good moisture.
For amazing results apply oatmeal before going to bed.
2. Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera gel has two natural qualities as far as feet drying and peeling is concerned that is moisturizing and soothing. On one hand, moisture is both crucial for drying and peeling the skin and on the other its soothing effect restores comfort and keeps the body at ease.
Suppose you have a dry flaky skin due to a vitamin deficiency. What do you come up with? A combination of aloe and vitamin E oil for drying feet which is also itchy or irritating.
- Simply combine 2 spoonful of Aloe Vera and a few drops of vitamin E oil of your choice. (Sunflower oil, almond oil, wheat germ oil etc.)
- Apply and let it dry.
- Wash with warm water but be careful and gentle not to cause more damage if you had fire burn.
4. Lemon + Honey + sugar scrub
Lemon is acidic and thus help to dissolve dead skin layer. In this procedure, you need at least half cup of sugar, honey almond oil or olive oil and half lemon.
CAUTION: If your it has blisters or wound it is advisable not to attempt this remedy as it may cause more pain than a help.
- Squeeze half-cut lemon piece into a glass.
- Add tablespoonful each of honey and your favorite vitamin E oil.
- Apply this scrub on feet including the foot soles.
- Rinse using cool water.
- You may apply a thin layer of Vaseline petroleum jelly.
Repeat twice a week for mild peeling symptoms.
5. Extra virgin oil
Natural sources of oil such as olive oil are rich in vitamin E and so-called fatty acids essential for moisturizing your dry peeling feet skin.
Prevention of dry and peeling skin greatly requires a personal self-protection, skincare and routine regimen including moisturizing.
Parents should take responsive measures to protect their children at daycare, playgrounds, play dates and nursery schools as mandatory not only for protection against sunburn but also to prevent skin cancer.
Reference and Cited Sources