Itchy legs is a common issue affecting both men and women. There are many factors that contribute to this uncomfortable, and often painful, condition ranging from minor hygiene issues to fungal or bacterial infections.
Itchiness can be a cause of concern if:
- it persists for more than two weeks,
- your skin is red and inflamed,
- you experience other symptoms including fever or fatigue.
Consulting a doctor in these cases is highly recommended.
Other common causes of itchy legs include:
- Dry Skin
This is the most typical cause of itchy legs. There are a number of factors that contribute to dry skin such as loss of skin natural oils (caused by too-frequent showering and excessive use of soap), dehydration, swimming, dry weather, cold weather and heating systems, excessive sun exposure, and laundry soaps laden with perfumes or dyes. Dry skin can also be caused by some inherited conditions hypothyroidism and Sjögren’s syndrome. Last, but not least, dry skin occurs with age and is typical of older people.
The best treatment against dry skin includes use of creams containing lactic acid and urea as well as ointments rich in petroleum jelly, applied immediately after showering. This helps your skin keep the moisture in. Other steps you can take to reduce the effects of itchy legs caused by dry skin include limiting baths and showers, along with excessive use of soap, cutting out detergents with perfumes or dyes, drinking lots of fluids to keep skin well-hydrated, wearing skin-friendly fabrics such as silk and cotton, and avoiding direct wind and sun exposure.
- Chicken Skin (Goose Bumps)
As opposed to goose bumps you normally get when feeling cold, these goose bumps are actually a rash marked by thickening of the hair follicles on the thighs, upper arms, or elsewhere on the skin, which eventually develops into itchy skin. The medical term for this condition is keratosis pilaris, which is the result of keratin build-up.
Creams with alpha-hydroxy acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid, or urea have proved most beneficial for reducing the effects of keratosis pilaris – they both moisturize the skin and release the dead skin cells thus clearing hair follicles.
Folliculitis is caused by infection of the hair follicles on the skin resulting in red and itchy bumps, usually located on the thighs and buttocks. Aside from being painful, these bumps are often filled with pus. The most common cause for this rash is the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus (staph infection).
Folliculitis withdraws on its own within several days providing proper hygiene is maintained. Anti-bacterial soaps and ointments containing the antibiotic mupirocin can also be helpful.
- Leg Itch in Unfit Runners
‘Runner’s itch’ often appears when you take up running or exercise after a long break from physical activity. It’s marked by intense itchiness in your thighs, calves and abdomen.
The root cause for this uncomfortable condition is the fact that tiny arteries and capillaries in the skin have closed as a result of inactivity and then re-open with exercise. This blood vessels re-opening irritates the nerves nearby.
‘Runner’s itch’ disappears with training.
Acne is another common cause of itchy legs. This cluster of pimples can appear on the thighs or buttocks as a result of poor hygiene, stress, or unhealthy diet.
Simple dietary changes such as increasing your water intake and cutting down on fatty foods can help reduce the appearance of acne. Regular exercise is also beneficial.
- Cholinergic Urticaria (Hives)
Hives, medically termed Cholinergic urticarial, generally occur as a result of sweating, after exercise, shower or staying in a hot environment, but also as a result of an emotional reaction – excitement, shock, laughter and stress. Hives are manifested by bumpy rash on the thighs, upper trunk, or arms. The best explanation for the appearance of hives is an allergy to one’s own sweat.
What you can do to avoid this condition is avoid doing exercise outdoors in hot weather. You should also know that scratching only worsens itching. Alternatively, you can take oral antihistamines, half an hour before shower or exercise.
- Jock Itch
Tinea cruris, also known as jock itch, occurs as a result of a fungal infection, which looks like bright red or brown rash. Jock rash normally affects the inner thighs, genitals, or buttocks and intensifies when you’re exposed to moist and damp environment as these factors promote fungus proliferation.
The best treatment against jock itch includes antifungal ointments or oral antifungal medications for more serious cases. Wearing cotton underwear and using antifungal soap is also recommended.
- Poor Hygiene
Poor hygiene leaves dried sweat and dust on the skin. These are then broken down by bacteria and yeasts causing irritation of the skin endings. This condition is only worsened by heat and rubbing by trouser fabric and socks.
What you should do to avoid itchy legs caused by poor hygiene is shower regularly using lukewarm water and mild soaps. Have in mind that hot water can remove the protective fat layer from the skin, so avoid it.
One of the most common skin conditions – eczema is in fact a group of conditions marked by skin inflammation and irritation. The exact causes behind eczema are still unknown, but it’s generally defined as an overactive immune response to irritants.
The best treatment for reducing the symptoms of an itchy eczema rash includes lotions and creams, applied when the skin is moist as this only helps the skin keep the moisture in. you can also use cold compresses to lessen itching. Last, but not least, hydrocortisone (1%) cream, or prescription creams and ointments with steroids, are also beneficial for reducing inflammation.
- Stasis Eczema
Stasis (gravitational) eczema usually affects lower legs and is manifested by rough, reddish, purplish, swollen, itchy skin. It is normally linked to circulatory issues such as varicose veins, vein thrombosis, etc.
Inflammation caused by blood vessel-related disorders lets fluid accumulate in the veins. This fluid eventually leaks out of the veins into other tissues and causes itching and irritation. For reducing the effects of stasis eczema, you can use corticosteroids, including hydrocortisone, wear compression stockings and avoid standing.
Other Causes of Leg Itchiness
There are other, less serious, causes of itchy legs. For instance, fabrics like wool can easily irritate skin when worn as trousers or socks.
In addition, mineral and vitamin deficiencies including iron deficiency (anemia), vitamin C deficiency (scorbut), deficiency of one or more of vitamins from B-complex, and rarely, vitamin A or K deficiency are all linked to itchiness.
Last, but not least, body care products such as soaps, shampoos, lotions, creams or other cosmetics can lead to this condition causing contact or allergic dermatitis.