Palmar Erythema During Pregnancy – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

5 min read

Palmar Erythema during pregnancy

Pregnancy brings on a sea of changes in the woman, especially physically. She just has to live with the changes or get some medical help if it is not manageable or causes problems. Accommodating all physical changes is one of the biggest challenges during pregnancy, which no one talks about. While some changes can be positive and leave you feeling good about the pregnancy, there are the not so good changes too. Pregnant women suffer some rare complications as well as common “uncomfortable” conditions too. Rashes and discoloration are one of them. Palmar Erythema during pregnancy is one such condition.

Have your palms turned red after you found out about your pregnancy? Does it look like you have rashes in your palms? Then chances are you have Palmar Erythema. This article has everything you need to know about it.

In This Article

What is Palmar Erythema During Pregnancy?

Palmar Erythema is a condition during pregnancy that causes rashes like red spots on your palms. This rare skin condition mainly affects the bottom (heel) of your palm, all the way to the bottom of your thumb and fingers. For some women, it can extend all the way to the tip of their fingers.

Just as pregnancy is different from woman to woman, the extent of Palmar Erythema also varies from woman to woman. The redness can vary based on the following factors:

  1. Temperature of both your skin and your surroundings.
  2. How much pressure you apply to your hands. This can vary based on your activities (you will exert more pressure if you are handling something heavy).
  3. Your emotional state of mind.
  4. Posture i.e are you holding your hands up?

Palmar Erythema is not always due to pregnancy. There could be some other underlying health condition causing the palms to turn red.

Causes For Palmar Erythema During Pregnancy

Also known as liver palms, Palmar Erythema can be broadly classified into

1. Primary Palmar Erythema

Primary Palmar Erythema is when there is no underlying medical condition causing the redness in the palms.

The main cause of Primary Palmar Erythema is pregnancy. Doctors suspect that the hormonal changes and increase in blood supply during pregnancy could be causing the capillaries to dilate, thus drawing more blood to them. During pregnancy, estrogen levels increase. Since this increase is only temporary, the Palmar Erythema can also disappear soon after the pregnancy.

2. Secondary Palmar Erythema

Secondary Palmar Erythema is when the redness can be linked to some other health issues like liver issues, diabetes, thyroid problems, or even HIV in some rare cases.

Palmar Erythema can also be hereditary or due to liver cirrhosis (a chronic liver disease that results in poor liver function or scarring of the liver). It can also be due to the impact of food or lifestyle on your liver.

In rare cases, it can be a side effect of certain medications.

Sometimes, the cause can be unknown, meaning it can be an idiopathic condition with no cause or cure. If doctors have ruled out all other possibilities or health conditions, they will diagnose it as idiopathic.

[Read : Cholestasis of Pregnancy]

What Does Palmar Erythema Look Like?

women with Palmar Erythema

Palmar Erythema will cause redness or red spots in the bottom half of the palms. It will start from the heel of the palm and can extend all the way up to the fingertips for some women. In some women, it can stop in the middle of their palms.

Though the entire palms can look red, they will not itch. It can feel warm or hot though. It will not spread to the other parts of the body either.

How to Prevent Palmar Erythema During Pregnancy?

Since the exact cause for Palmar Erythema cannot be determined, you cannot prevent it. If the condition is due to some underlying health issue like liver cirrhosis, the doctor might prescribe a short course of corticosteroids.

However, if your pregnancy is causing redness, you cannot prevent or treat it. You just have to wait for the delivery, after which the hormones will settle down. When the estrogen production reduces back to normal limits, the erythema can clear away on its own.

How to Treat Palmar Erythema?

There is no specific treatment for Palmar Erythema. Since it could be due to some other underlying health condition, the doctor will try to treat that first. When the underlying health condition is treated successfully, the palmar erythema will also clear out on its own.

If the redness is due to certain medications, the doctor will try to change the medication. If it is due to a certain component in medication, then the doctor will try to prescribe an alternative without that component. This will take time as it is not easy to pin down the cause of Palmar Erythema caused as a side effect.

For example, if the underlying cause is pregnancy, there is nothing much to do, but wait till the delivery. On the other hand, if it is a liver issue, the doctor will try to treat the liver problem. Once that is under control, the redness might go away.

Since pregnancy is not a great time to undergo any treatment or start any strong medications, doctors might advise you to wait till the end of the pregnancy, before they can prescribe any medications. This will also give them enough time to rule out pregnancy as the cause of the erythema.

When to Visit the Doctor?

doctor and pregnant women

If you are pregnant and notice your palms are red and stay that way for a few days, it is time to consult your doctor. Pregnancy is not the time to take any chances or ignore any symptoms.

Since you will be consulting your gynaecologist regularly, do inform them during your next visit. However, if your red palms start itching or getting numb, do not delay any further. You need to check it immediately.

If there is no underlying condition causing Palmar Erythema, the doctor will just ask you to wait it out, while keeping a close watch on the condition. If it seems to increase or cause other complications, the doctor will order more tests to understand the reason behind it.

Palmar Erythema can be an alarming condition to look at, especially when you are pregnant. However, it is not a serious condition that can cause any harm to the mother or the baby. Keeping your doctor or midwife informed is a smart idea as one can never be too careful when pregnant. The redness can just vanish when the pregnancy hormones settle down.

[Read : Itching During Pregnancy]


1. Does Palmar Erythema Always Mean Cirrhosis?

No, not always. While secondary Palmar Erythema could be due to an underlying health condition like liver cirrhosis, primary Palmar Erythema is not related to any other health condition. If you are suffering from primary Palmar Erythema, it could be just pregnancy hormones and not cirrhosis. Even in the case of secondary Palmar Erythema, it can be other autoimmune diseases too.

2. Why do My Hands Get Red and Hot?

Palmar Erythema causes the capillaries to open up, attracting more blood to them. When the blood flow increases, the temperature can also increase. It can also be the other way around – an increase in body temperature can cause the redness to increase or spread. Pregnancy causes the body’s basal temperature to increase. You could be feeling this in your palms.

Read Also: Itchy Skin During Pregnancy: Treatment for Fast Relief

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