Photo Rounds

Scaly palms and soles

A 45-year-old African American woman visited her family physician (FP) to see if anything could be done for her scaly palms and soles. She said that her feet and hands had always been like this and that her mom’s feet were like hers, as well. She worked as a medical assistant and found that it sometimes hurt her to walk.

What's the diagnosis?


The FP recognized this as focal palmoplantar keratoderma of the palms and soles, which is an inherited genodermatosis that is autosomal dominant. The lesions are located mainly on high pressure areas and spare the arches of the feet.

Palmoplantar keratoderma includes a rare heterogeneous group of disorders that are characterized by thickening of the palms and the soles that can also be an associated feature of some very rare syndromes. The patient in this case had focal hyperkeratosis, which is located mainly on pressure points and sites of recurrent friction.

Palmoplantar keratoderma can be differentiated from plantar warts as it is present on more diffuse locations on the palmoplantar surfaces (including palms and soles) and it lacks the black dots of thrombosed capillaries that are seen in plantar warts.

There is no cure for this genetic condition and the goals of treatment are functional and cosmetic improvement. The FP prescribed 12% ammonium lactate as an emollient and keratolytic. The patient applied this twice daily with some symptomatic relief.

Photos and text for Photo Rounds Friday courtesy of Richard P. Usatine, MD. This case was adapted from: Mayeaux EJ. Plantar warts. In: Usatine R, Smith M, Mayeaux EJ, et al, eds. Color Atlas of Family Medicine. 2nd ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2013:766-770.

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