Dermatology Community
53.6k Members
Avatar universal

Feet and hand itch: Nighttime only

All my adult life, I've had recurring problems with either my feet or my hands developing a severe itch (usually not at the same time), almost always at nighttime (around 11:30 PM), occasionally earlier in the day or where standing. The itch is not confined to my soles but can be the entire foot and both sides of all my fingers. I am a thirty-year old very healthy male. The itch keeps me up at night.

The itch is a deep itch, and there is no rash/eczema/redness, and the itching is not seasonal. It does not respond to corticsteroids (including prescription ones), and it is not contact dermatitis. It does not respond to Hydroxyzine either.

I have ruled out peripheral neuropathy (pain in the extremities due to Diabetes), and my blood sugar and liver blood tests all come out fine.

The itch is not athletes foot (I know because I have had athletes foot), and wouldn't apply because it's on my hands occasionally.

The itch is not due to dry skin because I 1) use moisturizers, 2) live in very humid San Francisco, and 3) it is a deep itch with no visible symptoms.

I do have a history of depression, but I have noticed no correlation between the itch and depression and stress. It still occurs at some of the least stressful times of my life. If there is a correlation with stress, it's because the itch itself is stressful.

The only relief I have discovered are cold compresses. I have a freezer full of them. Heat does not help. People have spent time with me can testify about how strong this itch is. It occurs 2-3 times a week and takes about an hour before it calms down. The odd thing is it occurs only at night.

My current best theory is it may be due to a hormonal problem. In light of this itch manifesting itself only at night, a circadian hormonal spike or imbalance makes sense. Pregnant women report itchy hands.

Another theory is a metabolic intolerance. If I eat something I can't metabolize during the day, the itchiness would therefore only show itself at night as whatever I can't digest builds up. I can't find any correlation with it and my diet, however. Recently, I was assaulted and had to spend two days hospitalized. The second night, the itch showed up (the nurse thought I was crazy asking for ice rather than a sudafed: I told her the sudafed wouldn't work), but I hadn't been allowed to eat anything, so It couldn't be metabolic.

That leaves dietary deficiency - my body needing something, but I regularly take a multivitamin. Also possible is dietary over-eating (I pledge guilty to too much processed food and sodium), but, again, no correlation as far as I can see.

I have read about 10+ postings across the magikall interwebs describing the same phenomena in others, all with stupid follow up suggestions about athletes foot, et. al. If there is a reasonable theory of what is going on with this itch out there, I would much like to hear about it!
52 Responses
563773 tn?1374250139
One possibility for your symptoms is neurodermatitis. Neurodermatitis develops when nerve endings in the skin become irritated, triggering a severe itch-scratch-itch cycle. Common causes of nerve irritation include an insect bite and emotional stress. I suggest you to get an examination done from a dermatologist.

It is very difficult to precisely confirm a diagnosis without examination and investigations and the answer is based on the medical information provided. For exact diagnosis, you are requested to consult your doctor. I sincerely hope that helps. Take care and please do keep me posted on how you are doing.

Avatar universal
Thanks...it looks possible, but the literature says it's usually confined to just one area on an individual, and that there's actually inflammation. The most common areas are the neck, arms, legs and ankes--not the hands and feet. I know enough not to scratch it, which would explain the lack of inflammation or any visible "lichen simplex" (ie, I consciously don't scratch enough to mess my skin up).

I do have a history of asthma, though.

Also odd is that I only have it at night. Granted, if it is aggravated by stress, being home alone at night with nothing to do but think about how miserable I am would do the trick. In my case, it always hits right around 11:30-1:00 AM, but it can happen if I'm not at home or have company. Since having others around or being otherwise distracted would be a way to "distract the mind from the itch," it doesn't fit. This just buts in like a seizure or craving for ice cream. It doesn't respond to corticosteriods, which are the recommended first-line treatment. Also, I'm not in the high-incidence groups (women, middle age, history of skin conditions).
Avatar universal
Hi there.  I have the same itch you are describing.  It started with my feet.  I would get an incredible severe and deep itch in my arch, balls of my feet and heel.  I couldn't not itch it as it was too deep.  I would find some momentary relief by rubbing/digging my heel or balls of my feet into a rough carpet.  I tried soaking my feet in epsom salts which kind of helped but the water had to be so hot that I couldn't hardly stand it.  I almost wanted to hurt the spot rather than itch it.  I am now getting the itch in my fingers and sometimes in the palm of my hand.  Mostly it occurs on my right hand and foot.  But it does happen on my left too.  It almost always wakes me up around the midnight hour and I go to my computer to try to figure what this is.  Right now, I am experiencing it in my 3 right middle fingers.  I want to pick them with a pin to relieve the itch.  They almost feel numb.  Like you, there is no redness, swelling, bumps, scrapes, etc.  No cream works.  I am so tired of this and I just want answers.  I recently had twin girls ( I have 4 kids altogether).  This started before I was pregnant with the twins.  I had gestational diabetes and I have been told I am prediabetic.  I have not lost all the weight and am at my heaviest.  This itch may be worse now because of my weight and sugars.  My mom has MS so I thought it may be a MS attack since it feels like it could be caused by nerve endings.  It could be a pinched nerve.  I don't know what it is but I want to know so I can fix it.  I can't live like this.  It's horrible.  I just want to hurt my feet or fingers when the itch comes on. If you have any theories or if someone else has a theory, I would love to hear it!
I have the same problem also. Maybe 4 years and counting. I use lotrimin spray twice a day and found a lot of improvement. Although it still persist but not as frequently  as before.
Avatar universal
I realize this is pretty outdated but wondering if you recieved any help or information? I too love in San Francisco and am experiencing the same thing exactly as you described. It's not some skin irritation, nor is it a bug. It's something else. The odd thing is it happens only at night while asleep or trying to sleep for awhile. And it's rare. I'm baffled. But intuiting what this could be, perhaps as you say it's. Hormonal  imbalance brought on by circadian rhythms. Perhaps it's a combination. A reaction to a drug, however mild, that only when asleep and under the proper circumstances emerges. That's the only thing I can think it could be.  I would love to know more and if you found anything out.  
Avatar universal
Hi. I am facing an exactly similar problem as described in here! I am in Mumbai India. Have been fit and healthy. Follow very good hygiene. I bathe at least twice a day. So I am ruling out infection. No known allergy of any sort so far to any food/medicine/etc. Am not being treated for anything, nothing at all.
I went to my good ol' doc - a local general physician- after I got some red rash on my neck. My arm pits also had become itchy. This was about a month ago . I had applied a medicated powder called Nycil. It was a gulabjal variant of it, red in colour. It had cooling crystals in it so when one applies you feel a dash of 'coolness'. I thought I got an allergic reaction to this powder. Now, Nycil I have been using for donkey's years but never this particular variant of the powder. The doctor heard me out. He said " Nycil will never cause this problem as far as I know.  First things first, I have observed your skin. It looks like a fungal infection. Take this presription. Apply this brand Z***n ( an antifungal, anti bacterial dusting powder) Clotrimazole powder, twice a day."
I said " But Sir, I am surprised at the amount itching I get. It is also in my pubic region. Besides I have been using a medicated soap of a famous brand - Detto*"
Doc : "Son, be patient. Show it to me again if it persists. ALso shave off all this hair on your body. That can also cause these things. Stop using that soap; it can be very strong on your skin. Using something more delicate"

I have done as he said. Upon shaving the hair off, I observed some "spots" of fungal infection. Darkish spots.
After applying that powder the itching on other regions has subsided.
However, for past week I am facing itching as described here by SFKelvin. Exactly that.
I guess I have to see a dermatologist and not a General Physician. If anyone can recommend a good one, I would much appreciate that.
I live in the western suburbs.
Avatar universal
I realize this post is many years old, but still, I am wondering if you have ever found a solution. I have been dealing with this exact same issue for the past 6 years. It started when I was 32. Pregnancy had not effect and I do not believe it is hormonal. I have my own theories about what is causing this and would like to explore this with someone else who is experiencing this.
Have an Answer?
Top Dermatology Answerers
Learn About Top Answerers
Didn't find the answer you were looking for?
Ask a question
Popular Resources
Learn to identify and prevent bites from summer’s most common pests.
Doctors argue for legislation to curb this dangerous teen trend in the latest Missouri Medicine report.
10 ways to keep your skin healthy all winter long
How to get rid of lumpy fat on your arms, hips, thighs and bottom
Diet “do’s” and “don’ts” for healthy, radiant skin.
Images of rashes caused by common skin conditions