Hand-foot Syndrome

Certain anti-cancer medications tend to weaken the parts of your body that are most subject to wear and tear: the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet. The elbows, armpits and areas subject to pressure, for example under your belt or your bra straps may also be concerned. The symptoms are called the hand-foot (palmo-plantar) syndrome. They are sometimes exacerbated by heat, friction or pressure; they are, however, reversible once the treatment is over.

Signs to note

  • Numbness in the extremities, pins and needles, tingling, burning, pain
  • Peeling or flaking skin, redness, swelling
  • Presence of blisters or ulcers, grazing or chapping

If you notice anything unusual about your skin, point it out to your care team, as this syndrome can quickly become a handicap.

Some advice

  • At the appearance of the first signs, bathe your hands or feet several times a day in cold water. You can add ice to the water.
  • Apply moisturizer to your hands and feet twice a day.
  • Apply antiseptic ointment to any wound or sore.
  • Choose non-irritating toiletries without alcohol.
  • Dry your skin by dabbing it rather than rubbing.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. The heels shouldn’t be too high.
  • Choose clothing of light airy materials, with fine seams so as to avoid friction that could irritate your skin.
  • Avoid all contact with heat: hot water, hot surfaces underfoot, saunas etc.
  • Protect your hands with suitable gloves when doing housework or odd jobs and remove them from time to time to prevent overheating or dampness.
  • Rest with your arms and legs raised.
  • Use a cream containing 10-15% urea for serious calluses.
  • Check the soles of your feet carefully, with a mirror if need be, so as to spot any injury you may not have felt.
  • Do not use sticking plasters on the weakened parts.

An appointment with a chiropodist at the HUG can provide a vast range of specialized care: from prevention by eliminating calluses to the treatment of more serious side effects.

Download the sheet Hand-foot syndrome


Last update : 08/02/2019