When you are experiencing hardening patches of skin on your fingers accompanied by itching, you could be developing a wart, or you may be experiencing a problem with limited scleroderma, formally known as CREST syndrome. Scleroderma literally means hardening of the skin, and limited scleroderma is a case of scleroderma that is isolated to only specific areas of the body such as the face, legs, arms, fingers and toes.
Common warts can develop on the fingers from exposure to a strain of the human papillomavirus. The virus affects the keratinocytes in your skin, causing them to grow abnormally and form the rough raised appearance of a wart. Limited scleroderma occurs with a malfunction of your immune system. During this malfunction your body triggers the production of excess collagen in your skin, which creates a buildup of thick skin tissue. The change in skin makeup may also trigger the production of histamine, which activates sensors that send a signal to your brain causing the need to itch.
Certain factors may place you at a higher risk for developing warts or hard scleroderma patches on your fingers. For example, the Mayo Clinic suggests that women are much more likely to develop limited scleroderma than men. Other risk factors include exposure of toxins like benzene or silica to the skin, or the presence of a hereditary autoimmune disease in your family. Your risks for warts increase if you have open sores on your skin or regularly come into contact with surfaces that may contain the HPV.
Warts typically do not cause complications. However, limited scleroderma can progress from simple hardening of the skin and itching to more painful or serious problems. For example, over time the hardening tissue can develop calcium deposits which can become quite painful. Limited scleroderma also can be accompanied by Raynaud's phenomenon, which constricts the flow of blood to your fingers. This can result in white or bluish tinted fingers as well as the development of ulcers. If left untreated these ulcers can develop gangrene, requiring possible amputation of the finger.
Treating the Condition
Warts can be treated using over the counter preparations like salicylic acid, or through medical intervention such as cryotherapy or surgical removal. There is no specific treatment for limited scleroderma, suggests the Mayo Clinic, but there are treatments for some of the side effects that may accompany the condition. For example, physical therapy exercises can be used to prevent fingers from becoming stiff. If calcium deposits are contributing to the condition, these may be removed surgically to help return the finger tissue back to normal. As with any abnormal change to the skin tissue, you should always have your doctor examine the affected area, even if the area does not appear to need treatment.
Treating the Related Itch
When a wart or areas affected by limited scleroderma are accompanied by itching there are way to help relieve the itch. For example, the Scleroderma Foundation recommends taking an antihistamine, such as atarax, which can help block histamine from creating a itchy reaction on the skin of the finger. Regularly applying a moisturizing lotion to the skin may also help reduce irritation for both warts and scleroderma.