Itchy legs can keep you up at night. Learn why your legs get so itchy at times and what you can do to stop the feeling and keep it from returning.

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Itchy Legs: Causes, Treatment, And Prevention

11/02/20228 min read

You're having a great day when the urge to scratch your legs suddenly hits you. After a good scratching session, your itchy legs go away — for now. But you know the itch will come back, and you'll have to scratch again.

Dealing with the itch-scratch cycle on your legs can be frustrating, but there are ways to get relief. To help you stop the itch, we put together this guide on what causes itchy legs, how you can soothe the irritation, and what steps you can take to prevent this sensation in the future.

Table Of Contents

Symptoms Of Itchy Legs

A young woman scratching her itchy legs

As the name suggests, the primary symptom of itchy legs is, well, an itch. But there are other things to look out for that can indicate you have this condition. These include:

Some of these symptoms might indicate something more severe than just itchy legs. For example, hives could be a sign of an allergic reaction, while an inflamed red streak on your skin could be a sign of a serious infection.

That’s why it’s always best to consult a healthcare professional if you’re unsure about your symptoms or if you’re feeling concerned.

Causes Of Itchy Legs

Itchy legs have many potential causes, from insect bites to skin conditions like eczema. Here are some of the most common reasons people experience itchy legs are.

Dry Skin

When your skin is dry, it’s more likely to itch. This is true for your legs and all your other body parts.

Weather conditions, like low humidity or cold temperatures, can cause dry skin. And dryness can also be a side effect of certain medications, such as those used to treat acne or allergies.

Insect Bites

A child with insect bites on her leg

Insect bites and stings can cause an itchy, burning sensation on the skin. If you're feeling an itch, it's always a good idea to visually check your legs for any bites.

Mosquitoes, fleas, and bedbugs are common insects that bite people and cause itching. Also, if you live in an area where chiggers exist, they're another potential source of bites that could leave you wanting to scratch.

Chronic Skin Conditions

Eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis are all chronic skin conditions that can cause itchy legs. Here’s a bit more information about each one.

Eczema

Eczema is a chronic condition that causes the skin to become dry, cracked, and inflamed. It can be genetic or develop due to environmental factors.

You can experience eczema on your legs, but it's also commonly found on the face, hands, and feet. No matter where it is on your body, it can be very itchy and scratching can make it worse.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is another chronic skin condition that can cause itchy, inflamed skin.

It's thought to be the result of an overactive immune system that causes the skin cells to grow too quickly, leading to a build-up of dead skin cells on the skin’s surface. This can cause red, flaky patches, which can be very itchy.

Like eczema, you can get psoriasis symptoms practically anywhere on your body. But it's most commonly found on the scalp, elbows, and knees.

Dermatitis

Dermatitis is a broad term that covers any inflammation of the skin. Allergic reactions, irritants, and infections can all cause contact dermatitis.

For example, if you've been in the woods recently, you could have stumbled upon poison ivy, oak, or sumac. These plants release an oily resin called urushiol when they're disturbed.

If this resin comes into contact with your skin, it can cause an allergic reaction. The resulting contact dermatitis usually manifests as a rash of itchy, red bumps.

Certain Health Conditions

Some health conditions can also lead to itchy legs. Seeing a doctor is essential if you're experiencing itchiness and other symptoms like fatigue or weight loss.

How To Treat Itchy Legs

A person rubbing ointment on red, itchy patches on their leg

While the exact course of treatment for your itchy legs depends on what's causing the itchiness in the first place, there are some general things you can do to find relief. Let’s take a look.

Apply A Cold Compress

A cold compress is a simple remedy for itchiness. It can help numb the itch and reduce swelling.

To make a cold compress, wrap some ice cubes in a clean cloth (or use a bag of frozen peas) and apply the compress to the itchy area for 10-15 minutes.

Soak In A Colloidal Oatmeal Bath

Sometimes, there's nothing like a quick soak in the tub to ease itchiness. Adding colloidal oatmeal to your bath water can help soothe your skin and relieve the itch even more.

Colloidal oatmeal is simply oats that have been ground into a fine powder. When added to water, it forms a milky liquid perfect for soaking in.

To make a colloidal oatmeal bath, add one to two cups of colloidal oatmeal to a tub of warm water. Soak in the tub for five to 10 minutes, then pat your skin dry with a clean towel. Remember to moisturize when you’re done!

Stay Hydrated

A woman drinking a glass of water

Drinking plenty of water is vital for overall health, but it's also important for keeping your skin healthy and hydrated from the inside out. And, as you know by now, if your skin is dry, it's more likely to become irritated and itchy.

So, make sure you're drinking six to eight glasses of water daily. You can also try running a humidifier in your home to help keep the air moist and your skin hydrated.

Try Medication

Sometimes, natural remedies aren't enough to ease the itch. In that case, you may need to try medication.

For example, topical corticosteroids can help reduce inflammation and itchiness. These are available over the counter in creams, ointments, and lotions.

Antihistamines can also be effective for treating itchy legs since they reduce histamine production in the body. Histamine is a chemical that your body releases during an allergic reaction, and it can cause itchiness.

Talk to your healthcare provider to see if antihistamines are right for you.

Know When To Call The Doctor

In most cases, itchy legs are nothing to worry about and can be quickly treated at home. However, there are some cases when you should see a doctor.

For example, if the itchiness is severe or accompanied by other symptoms, like fever, rash, or swelling, it's best to call your healthcare provider.

It's also a good idea to see your doctor if home remedies and over-the-counter medications haven't eased the itch. They can diagnose the underlying cause of your itchiness and recommend other treatment options.

How To Prevent Your Legs From Itching

A woman scratching her legs

Now that you know a bit more about what causes itchy legs and how to treat this condition, let's talk about how to prevent your legs from getting itchy in the first place.

Use Moisturizer

Dry skin from eczema is itchy, so moisturize daily with a quality lotion or cream. Our Eczema Daily Calming Cream: On-the-Go is the perfect size for keeping in your purse or car. That way, you can use it no matter where you are.

The beneficial ingredients, including niacinamide, coconut oil, and vitamin E, help soothe and protect your skin while keeping it hydrated. And best of all, you can use it daily.

Avoid Irritants

Some substances can irritate your skin and make itching worse. To prevent this, avoid using products with harsh ingredients. Instead, choose products, such as our Sensitive Skin Moisturizing Body Wash, that help lock in moisture.

When you're outside, take precautions to protect your legs from bug bites and poisonous plants. For example, wear long pants and good shoes when exploring the woods, and use bug spray to keep mosquitoes and ticks at bay.

Stop Scratching

The more you scratch your skin the itchier it will become, so try to avoid scratching if possible. If your itchy skin is really driving you crazy, try putting on a pair of thin gloves. They can help keep you from accidentally irritating your skin more.

You can also try to redirect your movements. For example, if you reach down to scratch your legs, try patting the skin gently instead. The motion can help relieve the itch without causing more problems.

No More Itchy Legs!

Four women walking in shallow water

Itchy legs can be an annoyance, but they're rarely a sign of anything serious. In most cases, you can treat them with over-the-counter medications or home remedies.

The deep hydration of our Eczema Daily Calming Cream can also help tame your eczema itch so you can get back to living life without scratching.

But if the itching persists after trying these treatments, it's best to see your doctor. They can get to the bottom of what's causing your itchiness and help you develop a treatment plan to ease your symptoms for good.

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Merck Manual
Missouri Department of Conservation
Nemours KidsHealth

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