What can cause itchy lower legs?
Several health issues can cause itchiness in the lower legs. Below, find some of the more common causes and their symptoms.
Shaving products and techniques can lead to itchiness in the lower legs. Friction from razor blades can scrape and irritate the skin, while harsh chemicals in shaving creams can also trigger irritation.
Shaving can also lead to ingrown hairs, which curl over and grow backward into the skin. These hairs can form bumps that are red, itchy, painful, or a combination.
Insect bites are quite common, and they typically cause localized itching, burning, or stinging.
A person who has been bitten on the leg may notice one or more small red bumps, which may resemble hives, around the site of the bite.
Certain natural or synthetic chemicals can trigger allergic reactions. If a person has a skin allergy, they may experience the following symptoms in any area that has come into contact with an allergen:
- red blistering
If the lower legs, for example, come into contact with an allergen, an itchy, red, blistery rash — known as allergic contact dermatitis — can develop.
Poison ivy can cause allergic contact dermatitis, as can fragrances and other chemicals in:
- laundry detergents and fabric softeners
- over-the-counter antibiotic ointments
- any other skin care product
Some people naturally have dry, flaky skin. When the skin is dry, its barrier is compromised, which can cause itchiness — in fact, dry skin may be one of the most common causes of itchiness.
Scratching the itchy area may provide temporary relief, but it causes inflammation, worsening the problem.
People of all ages can have dry skin. However, it tends to become more common with age. By the age of 65, a person’s skin is thinner and retains less moisture, making it more prone to dryness and itchiness.
Eczema — or atopic dermatitis — is an inflammatory skin condition that may occur almost anywhere on the body.
In babies, eczema most often develops on the cheeks and outer arms and legs. In older children and adults, it usually appears in the creases of the knees and elbows, but it can appear in other areas.
Eczema is a very itchy skin condition, and affected areas may also be dry, red, and irritated.
Stasis dermatitis is an eczema-like disorder that typically results from circulatory issues in the veins of the legs.
The condition causes blood to pool in these veins, leading to a buildup of pressure. The pressure can cause the veins to leak, resulting in eczema-like changes, such as dryness, redness, and inflammation, as well as:
- other discoloration
- pain or a heavy feeling in the legs
- swelling in the legs
- varicose veins
- leg ulcers
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that forms patches and plaques of red skin.
Psoriasis is not usually itchy, and it typically affects the skin on the knees, elbows, and scalp. However, it can occur on any part of the body, including the lower legs.
More specific symptoms of psoriasis depend on the type, and there are five types:
- Plaque psoriasis, characterized by raised red plaques covered in white scales
- Guttate psoriasis, which forms small, round, pink, scaly patches
- Inverse psoriasis, characterized by shiny red lesions in the folds of the body
- Pustular psoriasis, which forms scattered pustules surrounded by red skin
- Erythrodermic psoriasis, characterized by fiery red areas of skin throughout the body
People with diabetes have an increased risk of developing conditions that can cause itchy skin.
Examples of such conditions include:
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), itchiness can be one of the earliest signs of diabetes. If the itching occurs mainly in the lower legs, it usually indicates poor circulation.
The ADA note that managing blood sugar levels daily and taking good care of the feet and lower legs can help reduce the risk of certain diabetes complications.
Graves’ disease is an autoimmune condition that triggers overactivity of the thyroid gland.
A small number of people with Graves’ disease develop pretibial myxedema (PM), a condition that causes the skin on the shins to thicken and redden.
Although PM is usually painless, affected areas can be itchy and sore. People with the condition may also notice the following on their shins, calves, and feet:
- nodules and raised plaques
- prominent hair follicles, giving the skin an orange peel-like appearance
- purple or yellow-brown discoloration
The kidneys perform many important functions, including helping to maintain a balance of minerals in the blood.
In advanced kidney disease, the kidneys are no longer able to support this balance. This can lead to dry, itchy skin anywhere on the body.
Some other symptoms of kidney disease include:
- frequent urination
- foamy urine
- persistent puffiness around the eyes
- swollen feet or ankles
- muscle cramps
- tiredness or fatigue
- low appetite
- difficulty sleeping
- difficulty concentrating
- blood in the urine
Hodgkin lymphoma is a type of cancer that develops in a part of the immune system called the lymphatic system.
People with Hodgkin lymphoma may experience itchy lower legs, hands, or feet. In some cases, the entire body may be itchy. The itchiness is rarely accompanied by a skin rash.
A characteristic symptom of Hodgkin lymphoma is painless swelling in the neck, armpit, or groin. The disease can also cause flu-like symptoms, including a fever and fatigue, as well as night sweats.