Treatment Related Skin Changes: Hand-Foot Syndrome

Certain treatments may cause changes to the skin on the hands and feet. These treatments can affect skin cell growth as well as the small blood vessels in your hands and feet and cause damage to surrounding tissue. Typically, these side effects begin during the first 6 weeks of treatment and go up to 2 -3 months after starting.

Signs that you may be experiencing these treatment related changes include: 

  • Swelling of the hands and/or feet 

  • Skin appearing red and feeling tender 

  • Peeling of the skin in these areas 

  • Blisters 

Like nail changes, preventative actions are a great way to start managing hand-foot side effects. Steps that can be taken at home include: 

  • Limit exposure to hot water as this can be drying and damage sensitive skin. 

  • Chemicals that can be irritating to the skin such as cleaning products, detergent, and dish soap should be used minimally or avoided if possible. 

  • Avoid creating friction on the skin of your hands and feet. 

  • Gently apply mild, alcohol-free lotions to keep your skin moisturized. 

  • Wear socks, slippers, and well-fitting shoes when possible. Avoid going barefoot-even at home. 

  • Wear fabric gloves to protect your hands as needed. 

Good to know: Generally, it is advised to avoid any work with your hands that could potentially lead to irritation and/or injury. Examples of this may include working with garden tools and household tools such as drills or screwdrivers. 

If these side effects do develop, your oncologist may advise using lidocaine patches and medications (such as Tylenol or ibuprofen) for pain relief. Topical anti-inflammatory creams may also be prescribed by your physician.  

​​Cristina Mazzega-Fabbro, J. P. (2023). Mild Cryotherapy for Prevention of Paclitaxel-Induced Nail Toxicity in Breast Cancer Patients: A Phase II Single-Arm Clinical Trial. Clinical Breast Cancer, 23(4), 447-453. 

​Institute, N. C. (2022). Skin and Nail Changes during Cancer Treatment. Retrieved from,and%20your%20cuticles%20may%20hurt. 

​Shankila Mittal, N. K. (2022). Nail Changes With Chemotherapeutic Agents and Targeted Therapies. Indian Dermatology Online Journal