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Hand Foot Syndrome


Hand-foot syndrome

is a reaction to a medicine used to treat cancer. Hand-foot syndrome usually affects the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet.

Signs and symptoms

may range from mild to severe. Severe problems may affect your daily activities.

  • Red skin that looks like a sunburn, blisters, or peeling skin
  • Fingernails or toenails that peel, crack, or come off the nail bed
  • Pain in the affected area
  • Swelling, a rash, or tender skin
  • Numbness, tingling, burning, or itching skin
  • Ulcers (sores) on your skin
  • Trouble walking or using your hands because of swelling or soreness

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have new or worsening symptoms.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


Your healthcare provider may stop or change your chemotherapy until your signs and symptoms get better. Your provider may also prescribe steroid medicine for swelling and pain. The medicine might be a pill to swallow or a cream to apply to your skin. Ask about over-the-counter pain medicines such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain. Ibuprofen can also help reduce inflammation.

Manage your symptoms:

  • Apply ice to your skin. Ice will help with pain and burning. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a bag. Cover the pack or bag with a small towel before you apply it to your skin. Apply ice for 15 to 20 minutes every hour, or as directed.
  • Elevate your hands and feet. This will help relieve pain and swelling. Prop your hands and feet on pillows to keep them elevated comfortably.
  • Be gentle with your skin. Pat your skin dry after you bathe. Do not rub your skin with a towel. Use mild laundry detergents, hand soaps, and cleaning products. Strong chemicals can irritate your skin.
  • Use mild lotions to moisturize your skin. Pat the lotion into your skin. Do not rub it in. Use lotions that are made for sensitive skin.

Prevent hand-foot syndrome:

  • Keep your hands and feet cool. Heat may increase the amount of medication that gets into your blood vessels. Heat can also increase the risk for medicine leaking from the vessels. Do not use hot water when you bathe, wash dishes or items by hand, or wash your hands. Use lukewarm or cool water.
  • Keep pressure off your hands and feet. Pressure increases the risk for medicine leaking from blood vessels. Do not rub your hands or feet.
  • Protect your feet. Do not walk around barefoot. Wear thick cotton socks and soft, comfortable shoes. Regular shoes may rub on your feet and cause irritation. Wear soft slippers or sandals that allow air to get to your feet. Do not run, jump, or do any activity that will increase the risk for leaking blood vessels.
  • Protect your hands. Do not use tools that need you to squeeze your hand on the tool. Examples are a hammer, screwdriver, or gardening tools. Do not use knives. The risk for leaking blood vessels increases when you chop with a knife.
  • Ask about urea cream. Creams that contain 10% urea may help prevent hand-foot syndrome from certain medicines. Ask your healthcare provider if this cream might work for you. You will need to apply the cream to your hands and feet 3 times each day and after you wash your hands.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Hand Foot Syndrome (Ambulatory Care)

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex Guides (External)

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.