Several conditions can cause bumps on the hand, including eczema, ingrown hairs, insect bites, and more. Treatment may depend on the cause.
An acne pimple develops when an oil gland becomes blocked and inflamed. A pimple is a small, swollen bump. It may have a whitish top, which indicates that it contains pus.
These pimples most commonly affect the face, chest, and back. While acne can also affect other parts of the body, it is less common on the hands.
However, other types of skin bumps are more likely to develop on the hand, and they may look like pimples. These may include ingrown hairs, insect bites, or molluscum, or they may result from a condition such as eczema.
This article lists the most common causes of pimple-like bumps on the hand. It also describes their treatments and when to contact a doctor or dermatologist.
Potential causes of a pimple-like bump on the hand include:
AD can cause small, itchy bumps to form on the hands, face, and other areas of the skin.
These bumps can be so itchy that they disturb a person’s sleep. Scratching may provide temporary relief, but it increases the risk of infection.
People with AD may need to try several treatments before they find one that works. A combination of medical treatments and home remedies may be necessary.
Treatment options include:
- corticosteroid creams to treat affected skin
- topical calcineurin inhibitors, such as tacrolimus (Protopic), when AD forms in sensitive areas of the body
- topical janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors, such as ruxolitinib (Opzelura)
- oral antihistamines to help with itching at night
- antibiotics for infections
- light therapies, including narrowband ultraviolet B therapy or controlled exposure to natural sunlight
For AD that does not respond to the above treatments, it can help to seek out a dermatologist. This type of skin specialist may prescribe more targeted therapies, such as biologic drugs or JAK inhibitors. These two drug classes target a specific component of the immune system involved in AD to help improve skin health and reduce inflammation.
- dupilumab (Dupixent)
- tralokinumab-ldrm (Adbry)
- abrocitinib (Cibinqo)
- upadacitinib (Rinvoq)
Home remedies for AD include:
- moisturizing the skin regularly
- bathing in warm (not hot) water that contains colloidal oatmeal or baking soda
- wearing a bandage on the area to prevent scratching
- wearing comfortable clothing that does not scratch or irritate the skin
- using gentle, unperfumed skin care products
- using a humidifier in the home to counteract the effects of dry air
- learning to manage stress and anxiety through yoga, meditation, or other relaxation techniques
Dyshydrotic eczema is a form of eczema that often leads to small blisters on the palms of the hands, particularly near the fingers. It can also appear on the soles of the feet and around the toes.
Dyshydrotic eczema is most common in adults ages 20–40 years and is more likely to affect women than men.
As with other forms of eczema, it can lead to itching, burning, and painful skin blisters. Various triggers can lead to a flare, such as:
- skin exposure to nickel or other metals
- skin irritants like fragranced laundry detergent
- seasonal allergies
- sweaty palms
- frequent exposure to water
In some cases, dyshydrotic eczema can also link to bacterial or fungal skin infections, which can delay or prevent the skin from healing.
People can treat dyshydrotic eczema with a mix of lifestyle management tips, therapies, and medications.
Lifestyle tips include:
- Identifying and avoiding potential triggers.
- Finding ways to manage stress.
- Keeping fingernails short so scratching does not break the skin.
- Using mild soaps to wash the affected skin.
- Removing rings from hands before washing so water is not trapped underneath, irritating the skin.
- Repairing the skin barrier by applying heavy creams with ingredients such as ceramides.
- Keeping skin dry.
- Applying a cool compress to help dry out blisters.
If these tips alone are not enough to manage symptoms, a dermatologist may prescribe treatment such as:
- topical steroids
- oral steroids
- light therapy
- topical calcineurin inhibitors
- oral antibiotics
- antifungal medications
Some people shave or pluck hair on their hands, which could result in an ingrown hair.
Ingrown hairs grow back after being plucked or shaved at an angle that causes them to turn inward. This can cause a bump to form, as well as swelling in the area.
An infection can develop in the follicle of an ingrown hair. This is known as folliculitis and can spread further on the skin.
An ingrown hair usually does not require treatment. The following home remedies can help alleviate any pain and itchiness:
- applying a warm compress to the affected follicle
- gently exfoliating the skin around the follicle
If an ingrown hair becomes infected, it may require antibiotic treatment.
Several types of insect bites can result in a red or discolored bump on the skin. One type is a fire ant bite.
A fire ant bite causes a pustule to form on the skin. Pustules look like acne pimples and contain yellow pus.
According to the Seattle Children’s Hospital, around 96% of these pustules develop within 24 hours of the bites occurring.
The pustules are quite itchy and can persist for up to 7 days.
Insect bites clear up on their own. In the case of a fire ant bite, it may take a week or so for the pimple and itchiness to resolve completely.
In the meantime, the following can help manage insect bite symptoms:
- applying a cold compress to the wound
- applying a thin layer of 1% hydrocortisone cream to the bite three times daily
- taking an antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
- treating any pain with an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol)
If an infection develops at the site of the bite, the person may need antibiotics.
Molluscum is a skin infection caused by a virus. It can lead to small, round, firm, yet painless bumps on the skin, either alone or in clusters.
Molluscum can affect the hands, though it is
The virus that leads to these bumps is most common in children. However, certain people have a higher risk of developing molluscum include:
- those who have weakened immune systems, such as those living with cancer or HIV, or
- individuals living with AD
- those who live in warm, humid, crowded environments
For most, a doctor or dermatologist may not recommend treating molluscum as it can resolve on its own. Once a person clears the virus, the skin symptoms should heal. However, that can take 6–9 months or longer.
In some cases, treatment is necessary for those who have:
- a weakened immune system — for example, has HIV or receiving cancer treatment — combined with numerous molluscum bumps
- a chronic skin condition such as eczema
- molluscum that is affecting the genital area
- an extremely bothersome case
If a doctor recommends treating molluscum, common options include:
- removal by freezing, scraping, or laser
- oral therapy, such as cimetidine
- topical therapy, such as podophyllotoxin cream (.5%), iodine and salicylic acid, or tretinoin
If a person is immunocompromised and has low CD4 counts — common with HIV — other treatments, such as intralesional interferon, may be necessary to clear molluscum. However, this is typically only used if the skin bumps are affecting the face.
The following lifestyle tips can help reduce the risk of developing bumps on the hands:
- using a moisturizing hand creams or ointments
- practicing stress management techniques to prevent acne and eczema flare-ups
- wearing padded gloves to protect the hands from friction
- using proper shaving techniques to help prevent ingrown hairs
People should consult a doctor or dermatologist if one or more pimple-like bumps appear on the hand regularly, if they do not go away, or if they ooze fluid.
Symptoms such as severe pain, itching, or skin flaking also indicate a need for medical treatment.
Various skin issues commonly affect the hands. It can be easy to mistake bumps for pimples, but acne pimples do not usually occur on the hands.
Instead, pimple-like bumps can result from friction or eczema. A bump may also be due to an insect bite, an ingrown hair, or molluscum.
The first step in treatment involves identifying the underlying cause. If one or more bumps persist, if they are painful or itchy, or if the skin oozes or flakes, a person should contact a doctor.