What is hand-foot syndrome?
Hand-foot syndrome (or palmer-plantar
erythrodysesthesia) is a common side effect
of certain chemotherapy and other
medicines. It can cause redness, swelling
and pain to the palms of your hands and
soles of your feet. In severe cases of hand-
foot syndrome, blisters may also form and
the skin on your hands and feet may crack.
It may become difficult for you to walk or
Tell your doctor if you start to develop any
of these symptoms on the palms of your
hands or soles of your feet:
ξ Tingling or burning sensation
ξ Cracked, flaking skin
How can I prevent hand-foot syndrome
There are things you can do to prevent hand-
foot syndrome from developing. These
include avoiding sources of heat and friction
to the palms of your hands and soles of your
feet. These include:
ξ Exposure to hot water when bathing
or doing dishes.
ξ Other sources of heat, such as saunas
or sun exposure.
ξ Activities that cause rubbing on your
palms and soles, such as running or
ξ Using tools that you have to grasp
and cause friction, such as pliers or
ξ Exposure to harsh chemicals.
Applying creams that are free of fragrance,
dyes, and alcohol to your hands and feet can
also help prevent hand-foot syndrome from
developing. Ask your healthcare team for
What do I do if I develop hand-foot
Unfortunately, hand-foot syndrome may still
develop despite trying to prevent it. If you
develop hand-foot syndrome, your doctor
might decrease or stop the dose of your
chemotherapy to allow your symptoms to
resolve. While the symptoms resolve, there
are things you can do to reduce any pain or
ξ Pain relievers, such as non-steroidal
antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs),
can reduce the discomfort and
swelling in your hands and feet.
ξ Increase application of creams to
your hands and feet.
ξ Continue to avoid sources of heat
ξ Your doctor may prescribe additional
medications if needed to manage
American Society of Clinical Oncology (2016). Hand-Foot Syndrome or Palmar-Plantar
Erythrodysesthesia. Retrieved from http://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/side-
Polovich, J., Whitford, J. M., & Olsen, M. (2009). Chemotherapy and biotherapy guidelines and
recommendations for practice. Pittsburg, PA: Oncology Nursing Society.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 10/2016 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing HF#7936.