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Itchy legs can be an uncomfortable sensation, with severity ranging from mild to intolerable. It can be a symptom of an underlying condition, but often, the cause of itching isn’t anything to be concerned about.
The problem can be as minor as dry skin, or it can be a warning sign of a condition like diabetes. Read on to learn more about causes of itchy legs, as well as ways to stop scratching.
Recognizing the cause of itchiness is one of the first steps to getting relief.
1. Dry skin
Dry skin on legs isn’t serious. But depending on the severity of dryness, the skin on your legs may crack, peel, feel rough, and become itchy.
Causes of dry skin include the weather, dehydration, and the use of harsh skin care products. You may also develop dry skin and itchy legs if you have a skin condition like eczema or psoriasis.
2. Razor bumps
Shaving doesn’t only leave your legs smoother, it can also cause razor bumps on the legs. These are a type of ingrown hair and develop when cut hair curls and grows back into the skin.
Using a dull razor and shaving against the grain contributes to these pimple-like itchy bumps.
Coming in contact with an allergen can also trigger itchy legs. This might happen if you’re allergic to grass and sit on a lawn.
Some people are also allergic to personal hygiene products applied to their legs. These include shaving creams, lotions, and even certain soaps. Bumps might develop shortly after contact with an allergen, resulting in a red, itchy rash on the legs.
Itchy legs can be an early warning sign of diabetes. And if you’ve been previously diagnosed with diabetes, itchiness is a sign that your glucose level isn’t under control.
Itchiness is due to peripheral neuropathy. This is when high glucose levels damage nerve fibers in the body, resulting in inflammation and skin irritation.
If you have diabetes, poor circulation can also trigger dry skin. Severe dryness can lead to itchy legs.
5. Insect bites
Itchy legs might be due to something as simple as an insect bite. This can be a mosquito bite, a flea bite, or another bug bite.
These reactions are usually minor and only cause mild itching and redness. You’ll likely notice a bump or area of raised skin in the surrounding area.
Sometimes, insect bites cause a severe reaction. These symptoms include:
- difficulty breathing
- a rapid heartbeat
This type of reaction is a medical emergency and requires emergency care.
6. Hair regrowth
Even if you don’t develop razor bumps after shaving your legs, you may have itching as hair regrows. Itchiness may start about 12 to 48 hours after shaving your legs.
The cause of itchiness can be dry skin due to shaving, or newly shaven hair becoming ingrown as it grows back.
This is a skin infection where hair follicles become inflamed. Curly hair, acne, or a medical condition that compromises your immune system are risk factors for folliculitis.
Symptoms include a cluster of itchy bumps on the legs. The area around the bumps may become red and sore, and some people develop pus-filled blisters.
8. Expanded blood vessels
Exercise is an excellent way to strengthen your heart, lose weight, and it might even improve some chronic conditions. But if you’re starting a new exercise routine, you may feel an itchy sensation in your legs.
Some people notice itchiness during or after walking, jogging, and other workouts. This is due to capillaries expanding in the legs, increasing blood flow to muscles and surrounding nerves.
The sensation is temporary and subsides once your body acclimates to a new workout.
9. Restless legs syndrome (RLS)
Restless legs syndrome triggers an uncontrollable sensation to move the legs. It can feel as if something is crawling on your skin. Some people also describe the feeling as pins and needles, tingling, or itchiness.
The sensation is usually noticeable upon resting, such as after sitting or lying down. RLS can even make it difficult to sleep at night.
The exact cause of restless legs syndrome is unknown. It’s believed to be an imbalance in the brain chemicals that involve muscle movement.
10. Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP)
PUPPP is a skin condition that develops during pregnancy. It’s typically seen in the third trimester due to an increase in hormone levels. Symptoms include an itchy rash or patches of red, raised skin.
Rash or bumps can develop on the abdomen in stretch marks, but may also appear on the legs and thighs. The rash gradually disappears after delivery.
11. Prurigo gestationis
This is another cause of itchy legs during pregnancy. It’s a benign skin condition that can trigger a rash on the body and limbs. Areas of the body affected include the arms, legs, and torso.
The cause of prurigo gestationis is unknown, but may be due to fluctuating hormones. The rash disappears in the weeks after pregnancy.
1. What causes itchy legs with bumps?
This could be due to several conditions, such as:
- razor burn
- pruritic urticarial papules
- prurigo gestationis
2. What causes itchy legs at night?
Restless legs syndrome is often associated with nighttime symptoms.
3. What causes itchy legs after shaving?
A few conditions can cause this, including:
- dry skin
- razor bumps
- hair regrowth
4. What causes itching on legs and arms?
This could be due to:
- dry skin
- razor bumps
- insect bites
- skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis
- expanded blood vessels
5. What causes itching on legs while running?
This is most likely due to expanded blood vessels.
6. What causes itchy legs during pregnancy?
This could be due to:
- pruritic urticarial papules
- prurigo gestationis
Relief for itchy legs depends on the underlying cause. Self-care measures can help calm skin irritation and an itchy sensation. This includes keeping your skin moisturized with creams, lotions, or gels.
Apply moisture to your legs before and after shaving, as well as after a bath or shower.
Other topical products to relieve itchy legs include anti-itch cream, hydrocortisone, and calamine lotion. You can also take an oral antihistamine to stop an allergic reaction.
If itchiness doesn’t respond to over-the-counter remedies, ask your doctor about a prescription steroid cream. This treatment might be effective if you have a skin condition that cause dryness, inflammation, and itchiness.
In the case of folliculitis, your doctor may prescribe an oral antibiotic to treat itchy legs. If you have diabetes, your doctor may need to adjust your diabetes medication to better control your blood sugar level.
Along with over-the-counter and prescription medications, a few home remedies can help relieve itchy legs.
- Cold compress. Apply the compress to itchy legs for 10 to 20 minutes at a time throughout the day.
- Warm bath. If your legs become itchy after a shower or bath, try bathing in cool or lukewarm water instead of hot water. It also helps to limit baths and showers to under 20 minutes. You can add Epsom salts or baking soda if you’d like.
- Oatmeal bath. A soothing oatmeal bath may also relieve itchy legs. Colloidal oatmeal, which you can find online, is a natural anti-inflammatory and an age-old remedy for dry, itchy skin.
- Aloe vera. Aloe vera also has anti-inflammatory properties. Apply aloe vera, another product you can find online, to itchy legs to relieve pain, dryness, and irritation.
A few tips can help prevent itchiness on the legs.
- Apply moisturizer to your legs at least twice a day — especially after bathing — to prevent dry skin and itchy legs.
- Avoid scented soaps, lotion, and laundry detergent which can irritate the skin.
- Wear loose fabrics to reduce the risk of ingrown hairs on your legs.
- Practice proper shaving techniques. Shaving with an old, dull razor can cause ingrown hairs and itchy legs.
- To reduce razor bumps and ingrown hairs, exfoliate your legs before shaving. Exfoliation removes dead skin cells that can trap hair and cause razor bumps.
- Use a sharp razor and always shave with the grain or direction of hair growth. You’ll not only get a closer shave, this technique also minimizes irritation. Apply a moisturizing gel or cream to legs after shaving.
Although itchy legs can improve with self-care, see a doctor for any bumps, rash, or tenderness that doesn’t improve or worsens. If you don’t already have a provider, our Healthline FindCare tool can help you connect to physicians in your area. Persistent itchy legs can be a sign of a skin infection, or it can indicate diabetes. Both can lead to complications.
You should also see a doctor for itchy legs that interfere with rest or sleep. You may need a prescription medication to treat an itch and soothe irritation.
The cause of itchy legs can be something minor like dry skin or razor bumps, or it could be a pregnancy complication or sign of diabetes.
An itchy sensation doesn’t usually warrant a trip to your doctor. Even so, don’t ignore symptoms that don’t improve. If over-the-counter treatments are ineffective, schedule an appointment with your doctor.