What causes the peeling skin on hands including peeling palms? Is such peeling a sign of HIV, infections, allergy or another condition? Never lose your mind if you have this problem since there are many possible causes.
To begin with, this is a common problem that affects many people. The peeling can be mild or serious and it often occurs around the fingers, between them and fingertips.
It can also happen on your palms or even behind your hands. Let us look at the common causes.
Why is skin near my fingernails peeling or why are my fingers peeling all of a sudden?
The basic reason why skin peels are dryness where a number of things will trigger or lead to drying skin which includes cold weather, hot water or heat, extreme atmospheric temperatures, exposure to sun, skin irritants and conditions like eczema among other factors.
Therefore, if you do not moisturize or treat the underlining dryness effects, cracking and bleeding in the skin will occur especially around the fingernails’ cuticles. While looking at the causes, we have included pictures of similar cases to help in familiarizing with the specific causes.
Acral peeling skin syndrome (APSS)
This syndrome or skin disorder in which the top skin layer peels off. The peeling mostly occurs in hand and feet skin hence the word acral. The peeling is typically painless but rubbing, increase in heat, moisture or humidity can make the peeling worse.
APPS can also affect the arms and legs and children are often at a higher risk of this disorder because it can begin in childhood due to its tendency to be hereditary. However, it may affect individuals later in childhood.
Symptoms of this disorder are mild but if it is not properly diagnosed it might be sometimes mistaken for other health problems. In fact, acral peeling skin syndrome is not associated with any other health problems according to the U.S National Library of Medicine.
APSS is majorly due to gene mutations occurring in autosomal genes (the TGM5 gene). TGM5 is responsible for the synthesis of a protein known to be a crucial component of the top skin layer. This mutation therefore reduces or cause a shortage of transglutaminase 5 hence causing a weakened barrier between the cornified (top skin layer) and the layers beneath.
As we have stated, this condition is inherited from either parent who is carriers. However, this does not imply that if both parents are carriers, all children they will bear will be affected. This is because APSS exhibits a recessive pattern of inheritance.
Infections – fungal, Kawasaki disease and jock itch
If you get a fungal infection such as athlete’s foot, the yeast can also spread to the hands and especially around the fingernails including the nails themselves. The fungus responsible for this infection is usually referred to in regard to location. As such, we have tinea (feet), (tinea pedis or tinea unguium).
Common symptoms are itching for both the toes and fingertips or around the fingernails. Infections also account for peeling nails and defects in nails.
Secondly, we have Kawasaki disease. This infection is common among children. The symptoms usually appear in a three-phase course. Various body organs are affected – lymph nodes, the skin, eye whites, lips, mouths, tongue, and throat – especially during Phase I.
Finger and toe peeling is attributed to Kawasaki in the second Phase where the following additional symptoms are noticeable in the 2nd to 4th week of infection.
- Yellowing of skin
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Abdominal pain, painful joints/swelling
- A headache and feeling weak in body
According to NHS Choices, it is during the second phase where your child is likely to develop complications.
Another infection is jock itch.
Side effects of certain treatments
Our bodies may respond differently to certain medications. While some patients may experience peeling others have complained of rashes, itching, swelling, discoloration, the formation of spots, et cetera.
Examples of medications linked with peeling after using include sulfa drugs, diuretics, aspirin just to mention a few. Patients who have had chemotherapy treatments have reported cases of skin peeling.
According to Healthline, some drugs may cause massive exfoliation of skin (exfoliative dermatitis) due to adverse reaction produced. Such comprises the following.
- Phenytoin (Dilantin) and other Seizure Medications
- Blood Pressure Medications
- Calcium Channel Blockers
- Topical Medications (Medications Put On The Skin)
It should be noted that these side effects could be specific and to some individuals only.
Sunburn or “sun allergy”
Exposure to the sun for longer durations or sunbathing usually results to sunburn. The extent to which the peeling occurs depends on how badly the skin gets damaged. Skin peeling is one of the second-degree symptoms of sunburn. Extreme sunburn will also cause blistering which may be accompanied by other signs including vomiting, fever, etc.
Dyshidrosis also Keratolysis exfoliativa
Going on with causes of peeling of palms Keratolysis exfoliativa is another skin condition, which is, associated with peeling skin on hands especially palms. The initial signs of this condition are usually marked by ‘air-filled’ blisters either on fingers or on palms. Refer to the pictures below.
Although the causes are yet to be known, there are no genetic defects associated with Keratolysis exfoliativa. If you expose your hands to external factors such as irritants the peeling can be extended. The condition normally recurs in a few weeks after peeling seems to have stopped.
There may be no specific cure for this condition. However, application of ureic-based creams or lactic acid can improve its symptoms. Sometimes the condition can get better on its own where newer skin cells replace the peelings naturally.
NOTE: In some cases, dyshidrosis can cause bleeding if it develops to the extremes. The similar terminology used in describing it is pompholyx and dyshidrotic eczema.
Hand eczema (atopic eczema) – itchy, cracking and painful
If your hands are very itchy and painful, cracking, with dryness and blistering, high chances are you could be suffering from eczema.
Hand eczema is a common condition whose prevalence counts up to 10 percent of the world population. Like other types dermatitis or eczema, this condition can also cause itching and redness on back of hands, fingers, and fingertips. Atopic eczema can also affect both hands and feet skin.
One distinguishing characteristic of hand eczema is tearing. This happens when the symptoms have gone chronic and it is often due to excessive contact with triggers such as water, irritants, allergens, etc. all of which results in increased inflammation.
Generally, hand eczema should not be confused with Keratolysis exfoliativa since both may appear to produce similar symptoms particularly with a higher degree of severity. The differences may not be clear unless an evaluative diagnosis is done and specific treatments administered.
Why are my fingers peeling all of a sudden? If you did guess, certain allergens can produce reactions in the skin where a rash is most likely to occur on the skin including the skin around fingers or on fingertips.
Bearing in mind that your hands are more often involved in touching, allergic reactions can easily result if your skin is sensitive to things like fabrics, latex, cosmetics and certain foods. This can be common reasons for the skin on your hands peeling after over washing.
The appearance or sudden changes in eyes, skin, tongue, and fingernails communicate a lot about your vitamin status in your body.
Now, “severe deficiency of Vitamin B3 and niacin can result in peeling skin as the skin on the body dries.” [yogawiz.com]. That is to say, peels of skin off your hands due to a vitamin deficiency can be due to Biotin or vitamin B-7, Niacin or vitamin B3 (in severe deficiencies).
In general, under severe conditions, deficiency of any vital body vitamin that leads to dryness in skin, will eventually cause peeling and sometimes flaking.
Vitamin overdose or toxicity
‘Too much of something is never a good thing.’ Vitamin sufficiency is key to healthy living. However, we should control the amount of vitamin we take in.
According to Healthline.com, an overdose or too much vitamins A in the body can lead to a toxicity known as hypervitaminosis A. Major causes of the toxicity is directly linked to high doses of vitamin alternative food supplements, megavitamin therapy and long-term use of some vitamin-rich acne treatments.
Do you want to know the symptoms of Hypervitaminosis A? Chronic Hypervitaminosis A can lead to cracking skin at corner of mouth, dry and rough palms or skin. Besides palmar peeling other symptoms and signs of toxicity of vitamin A are:
Coarse hair, hair loss, nausea and vomiting, increased pressure on the brain, (irritability – excited response or excessive sensitivity to stimuli), drowsiness, etc.
Hypervitaminosis A or call it vitamin overdose can occur in anyone – young babies, children as well as adults.
- Injuries or skin damage due to hot objects and fluids such as water, cooking oil, etc.
- Chemical burns
- Excessive hand washing
- Overusing the nails and for the wrong purpose,
- Bacterial or viral infections that cause or lead to skin irritation
Dry flaky and peeling
Why do I have dry peeling skin on hands that are also flaking? If your hands are dry and have started to peel off that, may occur due to a number of factors we have seen such eczema, sunburn, and extremely cold weather.
However, conditions such as psoriasis on hands can lead to the formation of flakes or scale-like things besides peeling. Palmar cracking, blistering and swelling of the fingers would also result. Psoriasis can lower your quality of life.
Note unlike dermatitis, psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that commonly affects elbows, knees and the scalp but can occur in any other area of the body.
In children, the following are some common reasons for skin peeling from hands (incl. fingertips and around fingernails).
- Kawasaki disease,
- Allergic reactions especially contact dermatitis,
- Fungal infections,
- Hand eczema,
- Finger sucking,
- Hypervitaminosis A or vitamin toxicity,
Peeling feet and hands
What is common between peeling hands and feet? The following are common conditions, diseases or factors common for skin peeling on hands and feet.
1. Keratolysis exfoliativa
Keratolysis exfoliativa or pompholyx or dyshidrotic eczema is characteristic of dry and cracking skin on palms and soles. Peeling occurs as one is healing. The good news is that the condition is not contagious.
2. Athlete’s foot and jock itch
Athlete’s foot primarily affects the toes (on feet) but will spread to the hands through contact and touching during treatment or when one is itching. Jock itch does not only lead to peeling fingertips but also other areas affected.
3. Acral peeling skin syndrome (APSS)
This syndrome is also characteristic of skin peeling where both the feet and hands are also affected. The term acral is used when the peeling is localized to areas such as the feet and hands.
What can I use to treat hand peeling? Do I need any treatment for my peeling fingers and palms? Do not ignore this problem since it can worsen and it always makes your hands not to look awesome. Some of the ways to managed peeling skin on hands include:
Exfoliation involves a wide range techniques of eradicating dead skin together with the cells. Before exfoliating, there are certain things to consider. What should you think of prior to doing hand exfoliation to deal with skin peeling?
- Causes of skin peeling on hands – is it sunburn, skin disease or conditions?
- Symptoms that accompany peeling for instance blistering
- The technique employed or the products used in exfoliation
If the symptoms cause a lot of damage to skin you need to see your doctor. Unless peeling occurs extensively, minor exfoliation can elevate and improve life.
Common products used are emollient hand creams available over the counter such as urea, lactic acid or those lotions that are manufactured using Silicone.
Antifungal medicines can be effective in controlling the growth of fungi causing skin infections and problems. After a proper diagnosis and/blood tests, your doctor may prescribe either oral antifungal pills or tablets or fluid if creams do not work.
Not that getting rid of general skin peeling caused by a fungal infection in people with a weakened immune system becomes quite difficult. This is where diabetic and those with HIV aids among other chronic problem may have a real challenge managing fungal infections.
Photochemotherapy is an optional cure if you have a skin problem like peeling. As a treatment for a variety of skin conditions (psoriasis, dermatitis, Vitiligo etc.), photochemotherapy is a type of therapy, which utilizes radiation, and some form of naturally occurring compounds known as Psoralens. For peeling in skin purpose, there is the application of Psoralens then followed by a localized phototherapy.
Prior to treatment, patients need to undergo an evaluative examination. It is also highly recommended that patients have appointments in order to discuss and know the essentials and all they are supposed to do, follow or avoid before treatment. Even though, this treatment comes with side effects especially if it is done on the whole of the body or if treatment is extensive.
Hand eczema treatment
Treating hand eczema and making sure it clears is difficult and complex. Dermatologists treat it using certain principles and concepts comprising skin care, protection from triggers and other treatments including topical solutions and therapy.
If the symptoms are severe, systemic form or forms of treatment are necessary sometimes. However, this depends on the specific trigger factors.
Oatmeal soak remedy
Are your fingertips peeling? Prepare your mixture using powder oat. Try soaking them in a warm colloidal mixture of water and oats for at least 10 minutes. Wash thereafter and apply your favorite fragrant-free, non-irritant moisturizer.
Remedies & DOs & DON’Ts
In addition to the treatments above, these remedies are meant to help anyone who has this hand problem. However, we emphasize the need to know and understand the cause for your case.
- Protect your hands from irritants such as soap, detergents, and solvents by use of waterproof hand gloves.
- Wear appropriate clothing particularly for people who live in areas with warm weather.
- Avoid cutting or removing the cuticles as this may expose your fingers to infections and cause drying out.
- Moisturize your hands using fragrant-free lotions of your choice. If you want to have a better experience wear cotton hand muffs during or while asleep.
- Soak in warm water especially if your fingertips peel often due to reasons other than infections, hand eczema, side effects from medications, etc. you can also do soaking after hand eczema has cleared.
- Avoid sucking or putting your fingers in mouth now and then
- The user of Vinyl gloves or cotton gloves when handling damp or wetness to avoid the triggers from making a direct contact.