It's not likely that you panic when you spot red bumps on your legs. In most instances, you shouldn't. But red bumps can be itchy and unsightly. Occasionally, red bumps on your legs are the sign of a more serious condition.
Red bumps can be caused by allergies, insect bites, infections, and a number of skin conditions. The sources of bumps and rashes often vary by age and health condition. If you're wondering about red bumps on your legs, consider some of the most common culprits.
Do you have small red or white bumps that resemble goosebumps on the fleshier areas of your thighs and arms? If they don't itch or they itch very little, they may well be keratosis pilaris. This is a common condition, affecting approximately 50 percent to 80 percent of teens, and 40 percent of adults, according to the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
Keratosis pilaris occurs when your pores are clogged with keratin, a protein found in your skin, nails, and hair. You're more likely to get it if you have dry skin or eczema. Although the condition is harmless, you may want to talk to your doctor about using medicated creams. In severe cases, laser therapy is used.
Small, red bumps or pimples that occur on parts of the body you shave or where clothing rubs the skin are signs of folliculitis. You may know it as razor rash.
This skin condition is caused by bacteria or fungi that infect your hair follicles. Shaving, tight clothing, and the combination of heat and sweat — think gardening gloves — are typical sources of folliculitis. You can get folliculitis at any age, but there are certain risk factors. You’re at risk if:
- you have chronic lymphocytic leukemia, diabetes, AIDS, or other condition that makes you more susceptible to infection
- you have acne or eczema
- your skin has been injured
- you frequent hot tubs
- you're overweight
Folliculitis can be itchy and uncomfortable. But it's not serious unless it progresses to a more severe type of infection, including boils, carbuncles, and cellulitis. Folliculitis usually clears up on its own. If it lasts longer than 10 days or it worsens, you should see your doctor.
If those red spots combine in patches and itch like crazy, you may have eczema, a common skin condition. Eczema may be dry and scaly, or it can blister and ooze a clear fluid. Eczema tends to flare up at times. Common triggers include:
- soaps and detergents
- cleaning products
- animal fur
- sweat and heat
The cause of eczema is not fully understood, but there are some common patterns.
- Eczema often runs in families.
- You have a greater likelihood of getting eczema if you or a family member has asthma or seasonal allergies.
- Eczema is more common in urban areas with high levels of pollution and in colder climates.
- Children born to older mothers are more apt to have the condition.
Although people of all ages can have eczema, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) says that 90 percent of cases occur in children under the age of five. The AAD adds that 50 percent of adults who had eczema as a child continue to have some signs of the condition in adulthood.
A number of medications are used to treat eczema, including antibiotics, antihistamines, and corticosteroids. Your doctor will help you find the medications that are most effective for you. Your doctor also will work with you to identify agents that trigger your eczema and reduce your exposure to them. Like most skin conditions, eczema can become infected. Additionally, if you have eczema, avoid being around people who have cold sores or chicken pox. Exposure to the viruses that cause these conditions puts you at risk of getting eczema herpeticum, a severe, rapidly spreading infection.
Approximately 20 percent of people will get hives in their lifetime, says the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Hives, also called urticaria, are raised, itchy red or skin-tone welts. They turn white when you press their center. Hives can appear anywhere on the body, and people of all ages get them.
You can get hives in response to a wide range of triggers, such as:
- some foods
- heat or cold
Hives are also associated with certain conditions, including:
- autoimmune diseases
Hives are generally not serious unless they're accompanied by a more systemic allergic reaction. If you have trouble breathing or swallowing, dizziness, or swelling of your face or tongue, seek urgent medical attention.
Your little red bumps may be bug bites — especially if they itch like the devil. Common culprits in the insect kingdom include:
- bed bugs
Itching may be helped by oral or topical corticosteroid, or application of calamine lotion.
Remember that prevention, in the form of insect repellants and keeping your skin covered, is the most important step in keeping bloodthirsty critters away.
Normally, the presence of little red bumps on your legs is not a matter of concern. But skin conditions carry the risk of becoming more serious infections. Treat your rash as recommended by your doctor and keep an eye out for signs of infection, such as increasing redness or swelling around the bumps, redness streaking from the rash, pain, fever, and blisters.