Itchy legs can be the result of skin rash or any other skin problem. The entire body is covered by skin that offers protection for the inner muscles and tissues. The skin is the organ that conveys sensitive issues to the brain from time to time. Itching is one such uncomfortable sensation felt by the skin. Itching of legs can sometimes be without any obvious cause also. Pain is the sensation felt when the underlying tissues or muscles are injured. Itching is an uncomforted feeling that compels one to scratch the area. Itching can be mild, moderate or severe depending on the cause.
Itch can be described as a peculiar sensation that drives one to scratch the site. The sensations of pain and itch are closely connected and it is the brain signals that make one to feel the pain or scratch the body due to itching. Itch receptors in the brain give you a warning that your skin is irritated. By scratching the particular area you are getting relief obviously, but it makes the things worse causing more irritation. Itching is not restricted to legs it can occur anywhere in the body. For some people itching can be felt throughout the body.
Itchy legs Symptoms :
The feeling of itching urges one to scratch the site which causes more irritation and itching. Thus it goes as a cyclic reaction making one to itch more vigorously. Itchy legs can cause common symptoms like irritation of the skin in the legs, redness, pain and formation of red lesions on the legs. In severe case it may cause bleeding of skin due to repeated scratching. Itching can cause pain and discomfort feeling.
Causes Of Itchy legs :
Itchy legs can be with or without cause. Various factors ranging from poor hygiene to serious medical conditions can cause itching.
- Lack Of Hygiene :
If you are not washing your skin properly while bathing dead skin cells may still remain in the skin causing itchy legs. This would block the pores of the skin intensifying the itchy sensation. Similarly excessive cleaning of the skin can cause dryness as the skin loses the balancing oil (sebum). Dryness can cause excessive itching and it continues as a process. Use moisturizing lotions on the skin regularly after taking bath. Do not rub the skin with towel but gently pat it dry.
- Wearing Tight Clothing :
Allow some fresh air to the skin at regular intervals. Keeping the skin fully covered with tight clothing can cause painful bumps leading to itchy legs. Use cotton clothes during summer and protective clothing during winter.
- Skin Conditions :
Various skin problems like psoriasis, eczema, folliculitis and heat rash can cause itching of legs. Some of the common skin problems are discussed here.
- Leg Acne :
Hair follicles get thickened not allowing exchange of air into the skin causing reddish bumps. Tiny bumps or lesions of red or brown color resembling acne on the face, are formed on the thighs and legs. This can get worse due to excess of heat and wearing irritant clothing. In medical terms leg acne is known as keratosis pilaris.
- Folliculitis :
This is caused by skin infection of bacteria. Hair follicles are infected forming red colored bumps causing intense itching and pain. Antibiotic creams can be applied on the affected site to get relief from the symptoms.
- Jock’s Itch :
Jock itch is one of the most common fungal infections of the skin. We all might have experienced Jock itch at some point in our lives. Also known as Dhobi’s itch, Jock itch causes reddish brown tiny papules on the skin. It largely targets the skin around the buttocks, genitals and inner thighs. In medical terms Jock’s itch is called as tinea Curtis. Athletes and people who sweat profusely are at risk of Jock itch. Antifungal powder can provide symptomatic relief.
- Urticaria :
Popularly called as “hives”, cholinergic urticaria causes red bumps on the skin. It occurs due to allergic response of physical stimuli. Excess of heat, rough clothing, eating spicy foods and emotional stress can trigger formation of bumps on the legs. Urticaria can cause intense itching.
- Running Induced Itching :
When a person starts jogging activity after long term, he/she can develop intense itchy legs for a while after running. During the process of running, small arteries open quickly for pumping enough blood to the respective tissues. This becomes a routine for habitual runners. However if a person begins running suddenly the arteries of the blood vessel may not pump the required blood creating low oxygenated blood in the legs. This in turn would cause irritation and itching. But this is only temporary and the symptoms would disappear as one continues to run daily.
- Unknown Cause :
Some people may develop itching after a bath or staying in hot environment. It can be due to the allergic response triggering sweat glands and release of histamines. This can also create bumps or lesions for short term which resolves after few hours.
- Stressful Situations :
Heightened emotions and stress can produce allergic rash triggered by chemical reactions in the brain.
- Anaphylaxis :
Anaphylaxis is a rare life threatening allergic response caused by the exposure to stimuli. These reactions occur within seconds and there would be flood of chemical reaction triggered by the immune system. This can cause hives (tiny papules that cause intense itching), feeling of warmth, rapid pulse rate, reduced blood pressure and shortness of breath. Some of the triggering factors of anaphylaxis include insect bite, exposure to latex, some allergic foods and medications. The above symptoms can become severe in some people causing shock or even death.
- Wearing New Pants :
Some people would get intense itching on the legs after wearing new pants or trousers. It can be due to allergic reaction of the clothing or friction caused by the rubbing action of the cloth on the skin.
- Itching After A Hot Shower :
Itchy legs can be the outcome of a hot shower. This can be triggered by skin problems like psoriasis or urticaria or psychological factors. Using strongly perfumed soap can disturb the oily layer of the skin triggering irritation and itching.
- Eczema :
Many factors can contribute for swelling of skin which is described as eczema. The result would be dry and itchy skin and formation of skin rashes largely on the knees, hands and feet. Eczema can be genetic in nature or can be caused by environmental factors.
- Deep Vein Thrombosis :
Varicose veins are thickening of veins in the lower legs thereby accumulating the blood inside the limbs. The veins may not be able to push the deoxygenated blood to the heart efficiently resulting in excess of blood/fluids in one place. This can cause swelling of legs, redness and itchy sensation.
- Other Causes :
Dryness of skin (xerosis), skin rashes like dermatitis, scabies, and psoriasis can cause itchy legs. For some people underlying medical issues like celiac disease, kidney problem, deficiency of iron and thyroid problems can cause dryness and itchy legs. More severe disorders like multiple sclerosis, diabetes and infections like shingles can cause intense itching of legs and all over the body. Drug interaction of powerful antibiotics and exposure to toxic substances like poison ivy can trigger allergic reaction causing itchy legs.
Itchy legs Treatment :
The doctor would examine the legs closely to find out the underlying cause based on the symptoms. Immediate relief can be obtained by using topical corticosteroid creams and ointments. The affected area should be washed with plain water and creams can be applied generously on the site. Covering the skin with damp clothing can help in retaining the moisture and absorbing the medication.
Calcineurin inhibitors like Protopic or Elidel can be used alternatively to get relief from itchy legs. Your doctor may give oral antihistamines like Zyrtec or loratadine or Benadryl for managing the symptoms of itch during night. Antidepressant drugs like fluoxetine or sertraline can also be suggested for skin itching. All the above treatments are applicable for general itching without any identifiable cause. For patients with underlying cause like anemia or thyroid problem the doctor would start giving medications for addressing the issue first.
- Phototherapy :
Itchy legs and itching on other parts of the body can be controlled by exposing the affected site to specific wavelengths of UV radiation.
Useful Tips To Control Itching At Home (Itchy legs Home Remedies):
- Moisturizing Cream – Keep the skin well moisturized. After taking bath dry the skin thoroughly and apply branded moisturizers like Cetaphil or Cerave on the affected areas of the skin.
- Anti-Itch Creams – You can use hydrocortisone ointments or topical anesthetics like lidocaine for getting immediate relief from itchy legs.
- Cool Compress – Don’t scratch the area whenever you feel like itching; instead apply a cool compress clothing or dressing to control itching.
- Oatmeal Bath – Sprinkle some oats in the bathtub and fill it with lukewarm water. Sit in the tub relaxing for few minutes.
- Avoid Tight Clothing – Wear loose and smooth texture clothing to reduce friction and irritation. Before using new cloth wash it thoroughly.
- Mild Soaps and Detergents – Choose a mild perfumed soap or cleansing lotion and for laundry also use mild products that does not cause any smell.
- Climatic Conditions – Don’t do exercise if the weather is too humid or hot.