DEAR DR. GOTT: I am writing in hopes to get a response for a terrible problem my daughter is having with her fingertips. When she was just out of the Air Force, she began a business cleaning homes. She had her hands in water and chemical cleaners constantly. She hasn’t done that job for the past five years, but since then, she has a cracking of her fingertips that is painful, and they sometimes bleed.
Her pharmacist and family doctor told her that this would probably never heal. She has tried tea-tree oil, Corn Husker’s lotion and every cream we can think of. It used to get worse in the winter but now happens year-round. Would seeing a dermatologist help? Or is this really something that she will have to live with? I’m afraid that she will eventually get a bad infection or something else. She’s now six months pregnant, but anything that you suggest could be held off until after the baby is born.
DEAR READER: Well, you’re right about holding off until after she delivers. Furthermore, if she plans to nurse her infant, that might have a bearing on treatment. Because of her pregnancy, I recommend that she not do anything without consulting with her OB/GYN.
Cracked fingers are a true dilemma and are difficult to repair. I could tell you countless remedies, but you’ve likely tried them all. So let’s consider auxiliary approaches.
Your daughter should see her physician to rule out a fungal infection causing the splitting. Some people on antifungal shampoos have found that massaging the product onto their scalps three times a week has healed their cracked fingertips.
• She might also have lab work to test her thyroid, because abnormal levels can cause cracking.
• She should not shower using very warm to hot water. The higher the heat, the more likely her skin will dry out and crack.
• She should wear rubber gloves when washing dishes or doing household chores with harsh chemicals. Anything on her open skin falls into the “harsh” category.
• She should keep her skin moisturized. One of the best and cheapest solutions is to use a petroleum-jelly product that she generously applies to her hands before going to sleep. She should then slip her hands into white-cotton gloves overnight. This pattern should be repeated every night until her skin is better.
• She should wear gloves or mittens when hanging out laundry or going outside in cold, windy weather. This will further maintain what moisture her fingertips hold.
If, after trying these approaches, she does not experience relief, an examination by a dermatologist may be appropriate.