We’re all probably familiar with having itchy skin. It’s often an irritating sensation, and you have to fight the urge to scratch.
Sometimes, but not always, other symptoms can accompany itchy skin, like a rash, redness, or raised bumps. Itchy skin can also occur all over your body or only in specific areas, such as the arms or legs.
If you have itchy thighs and are wondering what could possibly be causing it, we may be able to shed some light on the matter, along with possible treatment options and home remedies.
There are a wide variety of conditions that can cause itchy thighs. Below, we’ll explore some of the potential causes and the treatments that may help.
Sometimes there’s a simple reason for itchy skin: having skin that’s too dry. Dry skin can occur anywhere on the body, even on the thighs. In addition to being very itchy, you may notice that your skin feels rough or scaly to the touch.
A variety of factors can contribute to dry skin, including:
- low humidity
- cold weather
- poor skin care
- overuse of certain irritating products, like some soaps
To soothe dry skin, apply a moisturizing cream or ointment to the area, and avoid hot water.
Chafing happens when your skin is injured from friction, such as rubbing against clothing or another body part.
- a burning sensation
Thigh chafing can often happen when you’re being physically active. It tends to happen most often when you’re walking, running, or cycling.
Factors that contribute to chafing include:
- having excess thigh muscle or fat
- wearing clothing that doesn’t fit well
Applying a lubricating ointment like petroleum jelly may help relieve symptoms and prevent further chafing.
Dermatitis is inflammation of the skin. You may have heard of two common types of dermatitis, atopic and contact.
Atopic dermatitis is also called eczema. Eczema causes patches of itchy, dry skin. It can occur on many areas of the body. It’s unknown what causes eczema, although genetics may play a role.
Allergic contact dermatitis, a type of contact dermatitis, happens when you have a skin reaction to something you’ve come in contact with. Things like poison ivy or nickel can cause it. Symptoms can include intensely itchy skin, rash, and sometimes fluid-filled blisters.
For example, you could develop contact dermatitis on your thighs if you come into contact with poison ivy while walking in shorts. Some people have even developed it from
You can treat mild atopic dermatitis with topical steroid creams. Severe cases may call for immunosuppressive therapies or light therapy.
For allergic contact dermatitis, avoiding the allergen and using topical steroids can bring relief and reduce inflammation.
Heat rash happens when your sweat ducts get clogged. This leads to sweat becoming trapped under your skin. Symptoms can include:
- bumps or tiny blisters
Like chafing, heat rash often happens in areas where the skin can rub together, like the:
- thigh area
The rash often clears up as you cool down.
Jock itch is a fungal infection. A group of fungi called dermatophytes causes it. These fungi thrive in moist sweaty areas where they can multiply quickly, resulting in jock itch.
Jock itch affects the skin of the inner thigh, buttocks, and genital area. The rash from jock itch can have an itchy or burning sensation. It often appears red, dry, and flaky.
The infection can spread from person to person through the sharing of things like clothing or towels.
Using an over-the-counter antifungal cream can help clear the infection. In more severe cases, prescription antifungal creams or pills may be necessary.
Swimmer’s itch is a reaction to certain microscopic parasites. These parasites are often found in freshwater. If they come into contact with you while you’re in the water, they may burrow under your skin, causing an uncomfortable itchy rash.
Symptoms of swimmer’s itch can include sensations of itching or burning as well as small red bumps or blisters. It can occur on any area of skin that’s directly exposed to water, including the thighs.
The itchy rash typically appears while you’re still in the water, then disappears after a few hours. However, about 10 to 15 hours after the initial rash, the redness and itch return.
The symptoms of swimmer’s itch typically go away in about 1 to 2 weeks without prescription treatments. You can use anti-itch lotions or corticosteroid cream to help ease the redness and itching in the meantime.
What causes it isn’t fully understood, but a virus may be the culprit. In some people, the rash may itch. For others, it may not.
Symptoms like fever, fatigue, and headache may come before the rash. Then, the “herald patch,” a large oval-shaped red spot, appears on the skin. More patches then develop on the torso, arms, and legs.
Although it’s a relatively common rash, pityriasis rosea isn’t always easy to diagnose since it can look like other types of red, itchy skin conditions, such as:
Pityriasis rosea often goes away in 1 or 2 months, although it can persist. If you have pityriasis rosea and it’s itchy, see a dermatologist for treatment suggestions.
Meralgia paresthetica is a condition that affects the outer thigh. It includes symptoms such as:
- burning or aching pain
In most cases, the symptoms only occur on one side of the body. However, some people develop symptoms on both sides. The symptoms may get worse after walking or standing.
Meralgia paresthetica develops from pressure on the nerve that supplies sensation to the front and side of your thigh. This pressure may occur from:
- clothing that’s too tight
- scar tissue after surgery or an injury
- excess weight
You may be more likely to develop this condition if you have diabetes.
In many cases, you can get relief from these symptoms by:
- wearing looser clothing
- losing weight
- taking an over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
- using a topical anti-itch lotion
In more severe cases, you may need:
- prescription medication
- physical therapy
- pulsed radio-frequency treatment
Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP), also known as polymorphic eruption of pregnancy, is one of the most common skin conditions that occur during pregnancy.
It most often develops in the third trimester. PUPPP can sometimes also happen following delivery.
PUPPP is characterized as an itchy rash that’s raised and red, but it can take on many forms. It initially develops on the abdomen, often in stretch marks that have appeared during pregnancy. The rash can then spread to other areas of the body, including the thighs.
The condition isn’t serious. It disappears within a couple weeks of delivery. You can treat symptoms with antihistamines and topical corticosteroids.
Make an appointment with your doctor about your itchy thighs if:
- the itching is interfering with your day-to-day activities or disrupting your sleep
- an itchy rash appears suddenly or affects a large area
- symptoms don’t clear up or get worse with at-home care
Seek emergency medical care if you:
The treatment of itchy thighs will depend on what’s causing the itching. In some cases, you may be able to effectively treat your condition at home. But if the itching doesn’t go away or worsens, it’s important to see your doctor.
Depending on the cause, your doctor may prescribe one or more of the following to help ease your symptoms. Treatments may include:
- topical corticosteroids for inflammation
- antibiotics to help treat complications like a bacterial skin infection
- prescription antifungal creams or pills for conditions like jock itch
- light therapy to help with inflammatory skin conditions like eczema or pityriasis rosea
- other prescription medications to help manage specific conditions like eczema
There are several things you can do at home to help with itch relief or before you see a doctor. You could:
- Use a moisturizer. Moisturizing products can help ease dry, itchy skin. Try to use moisturizers that contain hyaluronic acid, glycerin, or petroleum jelly, which can help trap moisture in your skin.
- Take a bath. Make sure the water is lukewarm, not hot. You can also add baking soda or oatmeal to your bathwater for extra relief. Moisturize your skin after getting out of the tub. Don’t bathe excessively, though. Aim for once daily for around 5 to 10 minutes max.
- Use OTC medications. These medications, like oral antihistamines and topical corticosteroid creams, can help ease the discomfort associated with itching, depending on the cause.
- Avoid tight or poorly fitting clothes. Clothing that doesn’t allow your skin to breathe can trap sweat. Ill-fitting shorts, pants, or shirts can cause your skin to chafe.
- Use unscented soaps and deodorants. Try to avoid perfumed products, as these may irritate your skin.
- Avoid scratching. This can break the skin and increase the risk of infection. Instead, gently tap or pat the affected area.
- Avoid irritating products. Use only moisturizers or products recommended by your doctor, like Vanicream or CeraVe.
There are many possible conditions that can cause itching on your thighs. Some of the more common causes include dry skin, eczema, chafing, and jock itch.
The treatment for itchy thighs depends on what’s triggered the itching. Often, you can treat itching at home with moisturizers, good skin care, and OTC medications.
If the itching on your thighs is disrupting your daily life, or if it isn’t getting better or gets worse, make an appointment with your doctor. You may need a prescription medication to treat your condition.