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12 Causes of Itchy feets

Updated on May 16, 2016

Itchy Feets

Itchy feet
Itchy feet

Many things can cause itchy legs. Itchiness is the skin’s way of letting us know that some kind of irritant is present, but irritants can range from minor hygiene issues to fungal or bacterial infections.

When trying to identify the cause of skin irritation it is important to distinguish between itching, pain, and tingling. Itching can have a number of causes. Pain may be due to an injury, and tingling may be a neurological condition.

Below are some of the major causes of itchy legs. If your itchiness is persistent, consult a physician.

When Itchiness Is a Concern

If your legs itch, it is more than likely due to dryness and some other mild irritant. Consult a doctor, however, if you experience any of the following:

  • Your leg has been itchy for two weeks or more.
  • The skin is red or inflamed even when you haven't been scratching.
  • You have other symptoms, such as fever or fatigue.

Otherwise, read on for common causes of itchiness in the legs.

1. Dry Skin

Dry skin is often itchy but it is usually a temporary discomfort.
Dry skin is often itchy but it is usually a temporary discomfort.

Dry skin is often itchy. Generally, dry skin can be controlled through environmental factors. It is usually temporary and appears in response to a dry, hot environment. Severely dry skin is divided into a series of inherited disorders called ichthyosis.


Skin becomes excessively dry when its loses it natural oils. Too-frequent showering and excessive use of soap can bring this condition on. Other causes are dehydration, swimming, dry weather, cold weather and heating systems, excessive sun exposure, and laundry soaps containing perfumes dyes. There are inherited conditions, including hypothyroidism and Sjögren’s syndrome, which can cause very dry skin. As we age, our skin becomes dryer, so itchiness is a common problem for older people.

Treatment and prevention

  • Creams containing lactic acid and urea as well as ointments containing petroleum jelly, applied immediately after bathing, will help the skin retain moisture
  • Limiting baths and showers, as well as use of soap, can prevent dryness
  • A humidifier to add moisture to a dry room
  • Detergents without perfumes dyes
  • Wearing gentle fabrics, including silk and cotton
  • Hydrate. Drinking enough fluid (excreting at least 200 ml of clear urine in the morning can be considered as a sign of good hydration).
  • Avoid direct wind and sun exposure.

2. Chicken Skin (Goose Bumps)

Keratosis pilaris on an arm.
Keratosis pilaris on an arm.

These are not the same goose bumps that people experience when they are cold. With this rash, the hair follicles on the thighs, upper arms, elsewhere on the skin thicken and develop into itchy bumps. The condition, medically known askeratosis pilaris, appears as goose bumps that are skin-, red-, brown-colored.


Keratosis pilaris is a build-up of keratin. It is a hereditary condition but generally disappears by the age of 30.

Treatment and prevention

  • Keratosis pilaris bumps can be treated so they disappear, but they almost always reappear. Dryness can worsen the condition.
  • Creams containing alpha-hydroxy acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid, urea may help by both moisturizing the skin and loosening the dead skin cells to help clear hair follicles.

3. Folliculitis

An isolated folliculitis, or infected hair follicle.
An isolated folliculitis, or infected hair follicle.

With folliculitis, the hair follicles on the skin become infected. The resulting bumps are usually red and itchy. They can also be painful and may be filled with pus. Generally they appear on the thighs buttocks, often in athletes who wear tight sportswear.


This rash is usually caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus (staph infection).

Treatment and prevention

  • With proper hygiene, the bumps should heal on their own within several days.
  • If the rash persists, over-the-counter anti-bacterial soaps, ointment (containing the antibiotic mupirocin) may help.
  • For widespread infections, oral antibiotics may be the most effective treatment.

4. Leg Itch in Unfit Runners

Itchy feet
Itchy feet

When we take a long break from exercise and then go for a run, we may notice intense itchiness in our legs and abdomen. This condition is called "runner's itch" and usually affects the thighs and calves the most.


Runner’s itch occurs when arteries and capillaries have collapsed due to inactivity and then re-open when we exercise. The blood vessels opening up can irritate the nerves adjacent to the capillaries.

Treatment and prevention

The condition should dissipate with training.

5. Acne

Acne vulgaris, in this case on the arm, can also appear on the thighs or buttocks.
Acne vulgaris, in this case on the arm, can also appear on the thighs or buttocks.

Acne is a cluster of pimples with occasional whiteheads or blackheads. They can appear on the thighs buttocks and may or may not be itchy.


Acne may occur due to poor hygiene, psychological stress, inappropriate diet.

Treatment and prevention

Increasing exercise and water intake and avoiding fatty foods will help get rid of acne.

6. Cholinergic Urticaria (Hives)

A hives reaction after contact with a conifer tree.
A hives reaction after contact with a conifer tree.

Cholinergic urticaria or hives is a bumpy rash on the thighs, upper trunk, arms and can be triggered by a range of different events or activities. Generally brought on by sweating, hives can appear after exercise, bathing, staying in a hot environment, even emotional reactions such as excitement, shock, laughter and stress. The rash may appear a few minutes after the start of a run, shortly after a hot shower, and can be intensely itchy for 30-120 minutes.


Hives are thought to be caused by an allergy to one’s own sweat.

Treatment and prevention

Avoid running in hot weather and stop running when itchiness appears. If possible, do not scratch. Scratching aggravates itching. Oral antihistamines, taking at least 30 minutes prior to shower or exercise, may prevent hives.

7. Itchiness After Showering

Itchy feet
Itchy feet

If your skin loses too much of its natural lubrication during bathing, it may become itchy and tight.


Too-frequent hot showers and overuse of soaps that remove the protective skin fat and oils.

Treatment and prevention

Try showering with lukewarm water instead of hot, warm water. Use soap sparingly.

8. Jock Itch

A fungal ringworm rash similar in appearance to tinea cruris, or jock itch.
A fungal ringworm rash similar in appearance to tinea cruris, or jock itch.

Jock itch, also known as tinea cruris, is a fungal infection of the skin. Most often this condition affects the inner thighs, genitals, buttocks. Jock itch appears as an extensive red, brown itchy rash.


Moisture and warmth encourage the growth of fungus.

Treatment and prevention

  • Antifungal ointments, in persistent cases, oral antifungal medications
  • Keeping groin dry (wearing light and comfortable clothing) and washing with an antifungal soap

9. Poor Hygiene

When dried sweat and dust remain on the skin, they are broken down by bacteria and yeasts and can irritate the nerve endings in the skin. Heat and rubbing by trouser fabric and socks can aggravate this sensation.

Treatment and prevention

Bathe regularly. Try to use lukewarm water and mild soaps, not hot water, to avoid removing the protective fat layer from the skin.

10. Itchy Pants Syndrome

Itchy Pants Syndrome is really dangerous and can affect the organ.
Itchy Pants Syndrome is really dangerous and can affect the organ.

This fancy term describes itchiness from wearing new, unwashed pants trousers.

Cause: Irritating substances in unwashed fabric.

Treatment and prevention: Bathe and wash clothing.

11. Eczema

A case of complex eczema.
A case of complex eczema.

Eczema is a group of conditions that cause skin inflammation and irritation. Nearly 20 percent of infants are afflicted with eczema but most outgrow it by their tenth birthday.


It is unknown what causes eczema, but it is thought to be an overactive immune response to irritants.

Treatment and prevention

Untreated, an itchy eczema rash may become infected. Lotions and creams, applied when the skin is moist, can help the skin retain moisture. Cold compresses also relieve itching. Hydrocortisone (1%) cream, or prescription creams and ointments containing steroids, may also be prescribed to reduce inflammation.

12. Stasis Eczema

Stasis (gravitational) eczema appears as rough, reddish
Stasis (gravitational) eczema appears as rough, reddish

Stasis (gravitational) eczema appears as rough, reddish, purplish, swollen, itchy skin on the lower legs. It is most common in cases where there are circulatory problems, including varicose veins, vein thrombosis, other blood vessel-related disorders.


Inflammation from circulatory disorders allow for fluid build-up. Fluid leaks out of the veins into other tissues, causing itching and irritation.

Treatment and prevention

  • Corticosteroids, including hydrocortisone, can help to treat the rash.
  • Wearing compression stockings and avoiding standing may help prevent this condition.

Other Causes of Feet Itchiness, Is what you wear.

Wool, and other fabrics, can irritate legs and feet.
Wool, and other fabrics, can irritate legs and feet.
  • Certain fabrics like wool, when worn as trousers socks, can sometimes irritate the legs, feet.
  • Mineral and vitamin deficiencies that can be associated with generalized itch: iron deficiency (anemia), vitamin C deficiency (scorbut), deficiency of one or more of vitamins from B-complex, and rarely, vitamin A or K deficiency. NOTE: if you have normal blood levels of these nutrients, it is unlikely the nutrient supplements will help relieve itch.
  • Soaps, shampoos, lotions, creams other cosmetics can irritate the skin or cause contact allergic dermatitis.
  • Allergies of any kind can cause itch that can affect predominantly legs. Typical symptoms are bumpy, patchy red swollen rash (hives) more rough, scaly rash (eczema--in contact allergies).
  • Moist feet from wearing boots, waterproof shoes for prolonged time, can enable yeast to grow between the toes, which can lead to extreme itchiness.
  • Prolonged sitting, standing, walking can lead blood to pool in leg veins, which can cause itch and discomfort in lower legs, especially in people with varicose veins.

Mosquito bites

Several mosquito bites on a leg that have been scratched and inflamed.
Several mosquito bites on a leg that have been scratched and inflamed.
  • Mosquito and other insect bites can cause local redness and itch, which usually goes away in several hours to few days.
  • Leg swelling of any cause (heart, liver or kidney disease, venous thrombosis, elephantiasis) can be associated with itchiness.
  • Liver disease, bile duct obstruction, chronic kidney disease with high blood phosphate levels can cause itchy skin, including itchy legs. Many individuals on hemodialysis experience itch.
  • Contact with a nettle causes burning sensation, redness, and slight swelling, which can be followed by itch that lasts for several hours.
  • Small cuts and scratches may itch while healing.

Restless Feet Syndrome Causes

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is a little-understood neurological disorder that strikes more women than men. The sensation is a tingling more than an itching that creates an urge to move the legs. The sensation comes on when the legs are at rest, especially at night, and can make sleep difficult for some.


It is not known what causes RLS, but it is a neurological, not dermatological, condition. Magnesium or iron deficiencies may cause this syndrome.

Treatment and prevention

Movement and avoiding caffeine and alcohol may ease symptoms.


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