Itchy calves can be a sign of many different conditions, from dry skin to allergies to diabetes. In this article, we’ll go over some of the conditions that can cause your calves to itch, as well as home remedies and medical treatments that may relieve your symptoms.
If you’re experiencing itchy calves, you may also have other skin symptoms like:
There are many conditions that may cause your calves to itch. If your symptoms are difficult to bear, see a doctor for an official diagnosis. Some causes of itchy calves include:
When you have diabetes, your body no longer makes insulin or processes sugars properly. This can lead to many complications, including nerve damage in your legs and feet that causes itchy skin. Symptoms of diabetes can include:
- extreme thirst
- frequent urination
- hunger despite eating
- blurred vision
- slow-healing bruises and cuts
- weight loss
- pain, numbness, or tingling in the feet and hands
Diabetic neuropathy is a complication of diabetes that results in nerve damage — often in the legs and feet, but sometimes throughout the body. Inflammation and nerve damage from diabetic neuropathy can cause your skin to itch severely. If your legs and feet are primarily affected, this could be why your calves are itchy. General symptoms include pain, numbness, and tingling in the affected areas.
Diabetic nephropathy is a progressive kidney disease that may occur in people with diabetes. In its early stages, it’s not always symptomatic. When symptoms start to show up, they can include:
- swelling in your eyes, hands, ankles, and feet
- difficulty regulating blood pressure
Left untreated, diabetic nephropathy can lead to further complications, including kidney failure.
Nerve damage can lead to a chronic condition called neuropathic itching. It can happen as a result of nerve damage under your skin, or even damage or compression of a spinal nerve. If you have an intense, persistent itch in your calves that won’t go away — even with topical treatment — you may have nerve damage affecting the area.
Dry skin can become irritated and itchy. It can be caused by a number of things including cold weather, low humidity, and personal care products. If your itchy calves are flaking or cracked, it’s possible that the cause of your itch is dry skin. Other symptoms include a rough look or feel to your skin’s surface, redness, tightness, cracks, and fine lines. Dry skin is usually relieved easily by applying lotion to the area.
Thrush, or candidiasis, is a fungal infection that can affect your skin. While it usually causes a red rash in areas of the body where there’s more moisture, such as under your arms or beneath folds of skin, it can sometimes affect other areas. Thrush can cause a persistent, intense itch, redness, cracked skin, and pustules or blisters in the affected area.
Dermatitis, a type of skin inflammation, could be causing your calves to itch. Symptoms generally include redness, swelling, and itching. There are several forms and causes of dermatitis, including:
- contact dermatitis, usually caused by allergies
- atopic dermatitis, known as eczema
- seborrheic dermatitis, which causes dandruff, redness, and scaly skin
Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that causes skin cells to multiply quickly, accumulating on the skin’s surface. This causes skin to become scaly and red, and the affected areas can be painful and itchy. Other symptoms include:
- dry skin
- red skin patches
- silver scales on the skin that appear thick
- cracking and bleeding of the skin
- joint swelling and stiffness
- pitted or thick fingernails and toenails
If you’ve got scaly, red skin on your calves that itches persistently, psoriasis could be the cause.
Contact dermatitis spurred on by an allergic reaction can cause itchy calves. This occurs after something you’re allergic to comes into contact with the skin on your lower legs. It’s common for products like lotion, bodywash, cosmetics, plants, and some types of metal to cause contact dermatitis. Products containing perfumes can also cause an itchy skin reaction. Symptoms of contact dermatitis include redness, itching, and scabbing.
Athlete’s foot is an infection caused by the same fungus that causes jock itch and ringworm. Because it can extend up the sides of the foot, it could cause itching on the lower calf. It starts between your toes but can affect the bottoms and tops of your feet and heels. Symptoms include dryness, redness, itching, and scaling.
Hives are itchy, red patches that appear on your skin, often as the result of an allergic reaction. They can be smaller than a pencil eraser, or larger than a plate. Sometimes, they can connect to form larger hives. New hives can develop as old ones fade, and they can move from one area of your body to another. Most of the time, hives go away within 24 hours, but they last up to six weeks.
Certain insect bites can cause itchiness on your calves. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, particularly on grass, you could easily be exposed to biting bugs. Some of these include chiggers, mosquitoes, and ants. Chiggers can cause redness and itching when they embed themselves under your skin. Symptoms of insect bites vary, but usually involve redness, itchiness, and a small hive at the bite site.
Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder characterized by dry eyes and dry mouth, but it could cause your calves to itch. Besides dry eyes and mouth, other symptoms of Sjogren’s include:
- swelling of the salivary glands
- dry cough
- dry skin or rashes
- joint pain, stiffness, and swelling
To treat your itchy calves at home, you could try using over-the-counter lotions, anti-inflammatory medicines, or creams, depending on your diagnosis.
Mild corticosteroid creams can relieve conditions like dermatitis, while antihistamine creams and oral tablets may be used on hives or other skin irritations caused by an allergic reaction.
Moisturizing lotions and aloe vera gel can soothe itchy, dry skin. If you suspect your skin is irritated due to soap, laundry detergent, shampoo, or shaving cream, try switching to a milder, fragrance-free formula that’s less irritating. Soaps or lotions containing colloidal oatmeal may be soothing.
If you’re experiencing itchy skin due to a more serious medical condition, your doctor will recommendation treatments based on the cause. If you have a fungal infection, you’ll likely get a prescription for antifungal medication or cream. Your doctor can prescribe stronger steroid creams or prescription anti-inflammatory drugs in certain situations. If an autoimmune disorder is causing your dry skin, your doctor may recommend medications that suppress your immune response.
If you have diabetes and some of the accompanying complications, you’ll map out a treatment plan with your doctor that may include insulin therapy and other medications to ease your symptoms and manage your condition.
Whatever the cause of your itchy calves, relief is possible. Try soothing your itch at home first. If your symptoms affect your quality of life or are difficult to manage, make an appointment a doctor for evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of any underlying conditions.