Itchy Legs

At times, scratching a part of your anatomy to remove the irritant only to discover you have further aggravated a potential itching can be highly intolerable and even lead to self injury.

Although the human skin plays a pivotal role in maintaining the physical dimension of the body by protecting it against pathogens, breaking the itch-scratch cycle seems far beyond the human comprehension.

Itching, if accompanied by skin or systemic disease, can even lead to some anaphylactic reaction and cause death. So let’s find out its causes, symptoms, treatments, preventions and discover next to more about Pruritus: Our every-day sensation!


The most common regions where you may have severe itching are the front of your thighs, in the popliteal fossa (knee-pit), ankles or talocrural region in the lower legs and even an extreme burn due to itching between your inner thighs and the scrotal region.

Associated Signs and Symptoms

Before we begin to know next to more about itchy legs, we need to find out why do we feel the urge to scratch an itchy raw skin? It is not because what is happening on the skin but inside it. It is more than just a localized phenomenon.

Itching creates a scratch reflex as a result of which the somato-sensory cortex in the brain which is vehemently associated with the tactile stimulations is made active. Hence, a group of nerve cells that carry sensation of itch down the spinal cord to the brain will trigger a response.

The release of histamine from cells in the epidermis of skin is usually considered to cause itchy sensations. Though strangely pleasurable, scratching can damage the skin only to make it further itchier.

The most common symptoms of itchy legs are redness, bumps, spots or blisters and the worst of them all, skin dryness. Even during the process of healing, a particular wound feels itchy while growing new cells underneath the old scab to form a new layer of skin.

Causes and Prevention

Some other signs and symptoms of itchy legs may be associated with rashes, infections, allergies and hives. For that we have to scrutinize a large variety of causes. These causes may be environmental, infectious, allergic, dermatological or related to pregnancy.

Dry Skin

Dry skin may be caused due to Environmental factors such as frequent bathing with soap, perspiration, indoor heat combined with outdoor chills, dehydration, genetic predisposition, certain diseases like hypothyroidism or a systemic autoimmune disease like Sicca Syndrome, reduction in the natural oils produced by our skin as we age (senile xerosis) and malnutrition. Moisturizing creams should be used to reduce skin dryness.


If the skin is exposed to a parasitic insect’s bite, for example a mosquito’s sting, the area around the bite will start to itch. If a female anopheles stings a human, then plasmodium is transferred into the human body that is not just confined to a simple mosquito bite-irritation but also causes malaria.

Body Louse

It is a louse which infects humans. To avoid this infection, insecticides should be used inside room. Clothing, bedding and towel should be clean because this problem will go by tidiness in a rush like this.


It is a highly contagious skin disease caused by small eight-legged parasites called Mites (Sarcoptes scabiei) mostly believed to be transmitted by close person-to-person contact. Sexual physical contact is the most common form of transmission of mites.

There is a possibility that a person can catch scabies from a friendly pet like dog or cat. Unlike human scabies, animal scabies are far more fatal and can get worse if not treated.

Contaneous Larva Migrans

It is yet another similar skin disease caused by parasitic hookworms present in waste materials of dogs and cats that can causes red intense itching eruption.

 Typical "creeping eruption" seen in cutaneous larva migrans picture

Picture 1 : Typical “creeping eruption” seen in cutaneous larva migrans
Image source :

Swimmer’s Itch

It is a short-term immune reaction that occurs in the skin that has been infected by parasitic schistosomes like blood-flukes.

Herpes gladiatorum (Wrestler’s Herpes)

Also known as mat pox, it is transmissible by skin-to-skin contact mostly in sporting clubs.

Herpes gladiatorum image

Picture 2 : Herpes gladiatorum (Wrestler’s Herpes)
Keratosis Pilarisis

Also known as chicken bumps; they appear as skin-colored goose bumps that causes thickening of hair follicles on thighs, upper limb or anywhere else on the body. It is hereditary and itchy in nature.


It is yet another similar hair follicle infection that causes red itchy bumps and appears in the lower limb. It is usually found in people who share trousers etc. Antibiotics should be taken for its prevention.

Staphylococcal folliculitis picture

Picture 3: Staphylococcal folliculitis
Image source : Samuel Freire da Silva, M.D., Atlasdermatologico

Intake of Drugs

Drugs that release histamine can cause itching. Example: Opioids, Chloroquine.

Cholinergic Urticaria

It is a skin rash appearing on thighs shortly after running, walking or taking hot shower that lasts upto an hour or two. One should avoid scratching, stop running in hot weather and use lukewarm shower.

Cholinergic Urticaria picture

Picture 4: Cholinergic Urticaria
Source :

Leg Itch after Shower

Use of hot showers and excessive use of soaps that can cause skin dryness can result in getting itchy rashes on your legs. It may also be due to skin diseases like dermatitis, blood diseases and psychological reasons.


In this case, red bumps with occasional white and black heads may appear on thighs or buttocks region.

Internal Diseases

Some diseases may be internal or hereditary leading to itchy rashes on legs. They include uramic pruritus, liver diseases, iron deficiency anemia, hyperparathyroidism or cancer like Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Nervous Disorders

Multiple Sclerosis, diabetes mellitus and herpes zoster are some of the conditions that can affect the nervous system and cause itching.

Itchy Pants Syndrome

In this condition, a person feels itchy thighs while jogging. It is mainly because of unwashed fabric that makes itching incapable of being unnoticed. Try wearing cotton pants and wash them regularly to avoid any sort of itching.

Leg Itch in Unfit Runners

If you haven’t run in a while, you may astoundingly be the victim of intense leg itch. It is due to the inappropriate opening of muscle arteries because of increase demand of blood that irritates adjacent nerves. To prevent itching, you better start getting proper training.

Tinea Crusis (Jock Itch)

It is a fungal infection that is more prominent in inner thighs and buttocks. Anti-fungal medicines should be taken for prevention.

Jock Itch on the inner thigh image

Picture 5: Jock Itch on the inner thigh
Source : Samuel Freire da Silva, M.D., Atlasdermatologico

Gravitational Eczema

Also known as Stasis Dermatitis, the gravitational eczema refers to skin changes that occur in legs as a result of venous return due to increased pressure in the capillaries. It causes skin irritation superficially. Corticosteroid ointments should be used for prevention.

Restless Leg Syndrome

It is also referred to as Willis-Ekbom Disease. It is a neurological disorder and occurs when you are at rest and your legs start to itch. It disturbs your sleep. Avoid alcohol and caffeine for its prevention. Warm baths, massage and stretching exercises may also help.

Itchy Legs during Pregnancy

Due to poor circulation, it is not uncommon to feel itchy legs during pregnancy. So if you take a short walk everyday, it will help promote better blood circulation. Some other causes of itchy legs during pregnancy are

  • Psychiatric disorderss
  • Gestational pemphigoid
  • Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy and
  • Polymorphic eruption of pregnancy

Itchy Legs after Shaving

A shaving gel or aftershave that has high content of alcohol in it can cause skin dryness and result in severe allergic reactions. So choose products containing little to no alcohol and try using natural oils to keep the skin healthy.


Itchy Legs
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Published on by under Skin and Hair.
Article was last reviewed on September 26th, 2017.

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