The medical community refers to an itching feeling anywhere on the body as pruritus. Itchy ankles are often the sign of an underlying skin condition, though the feeling may signal other, more severe issues.

Irritation may be made worse by excessive scratching. In these cases, treating the cause of the itch may resolve accompanying symptoms.

Itchy ankles may cause rashes or lesions. Or, itchiness may be a result of these issues.

When itchy ankles are not associated with rashes or lesions, the condition is called essential pruritus. These cases are often characterized by rapid onset of symptoms and interference with daily activities.

It is important to discover the cause of itchy ankles. When in doubt, or when the itch lasts longer than a few days, a person should seek medical attention.

Fast facts about itchy ankles:

  • They are often accompanied by a rash or other irritations.
  • It is not always possible to prevent the itchy feeling.
  • Most people can find relief, using topical anti-itch cream.

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Allergic reactions and skin conditions are common causes of itchy ankles.

There are several underlying causes of itchy ankles. These range in severity from simple allergic reactions to much more serious concerns that require medical treatment.

Some of the most common causes of itchy ankles are:

Contact dermatitis

This condition is a common overreaction of the immune system, brought on by contact with a foreign substance.

Some well-established triggers include:

  • poison ivy
  • hand or body soaps
  • perfume
  • socks or other clothing
  • jewelry
  • animals

The most common symptom of contact dermatitis is an itchy red rash. However, it may also appear with symptoms such as:

  • swelling
  • ulcers
  • blisters
  • hives

Treatment for contact dermatitis typically involves identifying the cause and avoiding future contact. Over-the-counter creams alone may provide itch relief.

Hives

Hives are a common type of rash, characterized by the appearance of raised, swollen welts. They are often the result of:

  • medication
  • food
  • contact with irritants

Hives may be caused by an allergic reaction. It is often a good idea to seek medical attention, to ensure that this reaction is not causing other problems.

Hives are usually treated by removing contact with the problematic substance. Creams tend to relieve the pain and itchiness that may accompany this condition.

Allergies

Allergies are the immune system's response to contact with a foreign element. Allergic reactions on the skin may be localized, and they may appear anywhere on the body. Allergies are among the most common causes of itchiness.

Treatment usually involves applying creams that contain an antihistamine to the affected area. People should try to limit contact with any allergens that affect them.

Dry skin

Certain products or climate conditions can cause the skin around the ankles to dry, making it more likely to crack. The results may lead to itchiness.

Dry skin may also signal an underlying condition. For example, dry skin is a symptom of both eczema and psoriasis.

When the dryness is a result of an environmental factor, such as prolonged exposure to the sun or very dry air, a person can typically treat it with moisturizers. In most cases, this should alleviate the itch.

Sunburn

Overexposure to the sun can result in skin that is painful and itchy. The itchiness tends to begin as a rash starts to heal and peel. Once the healing is complete, the itchiness should go away.

Aloe vera creams can help the healing process. Protection from the sun, through clothing or sunscreen, can prevent the skin from burning.

Liver issues

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While itchy ankles may be caused by skin conditions, sometimes an underlying condition, such as a problem with the liver, may be the cause.

Liver problems may result in a feeling of itchy ankles. When the organ is diseased or injured, it releases a substance called bilirubin into the blood. Raised levels of this compound can cause itchy ankles, though the connection is not yet entirely clear.

Other symptoms of liver damage may include:

  • not feeling hungry
  • urine that is darker than normal
  • pale stools
  • jaundice
  • abdominal pain or swelling
  • nausea and vomiting
  • increased likelihood to bruise
  • chronic fatigue

Liver issues can only be diagnosed and treated by a doctor. If itchy ankles accompany any of the symptoms above, schedule an appointment as soon as possible.

Diabetes

A person with diabetes cannot regulate their blood sugar levels without assistance. If these levels are not well regulated, it can lead to short-term and long-term health problems. Peripheral neuropathy, skin infection, and poor blood circulation become more likely as the disease progresses. Dry skin may also occur.

When caused by diabetes, itchy ankles may indicate that the feet are not receiving sufficient blood flow. Tell the doctor about new or continuing feelings of itchiness in the outer extremities.

Diabetes can often be managed with insulin and proper diet and exercise. Preventative care is often the best way to prevent or slow the disease's progression.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a common skin condition, and the associated rashes occasionally appear on the ankles, causing them to itch.

Psoriasis tends to cause patches of rash to form around joints. The patches can be red, sometimes with areas that are scaly and white areas. Because psoriasis is a chronic condition, symptoms tend to flare and subside.

Treatments range from lifestyle changes to prescription medication. Consult a doctor for appropriate treatment.

Eczema

Eczema refers to a group of conditions that cause red, inflamed skin. Eczema typically begins in childhood, when an itchy, red rash may form on any of the following areas:

  • hands
  • wrists
  • feet
  • ankles
  • back of the knees

A rash from eczema may be bumpy or scaly. In some cases, it will just feel dry.

Over-the-counter and prescription treatments are available. Seek advice from a doctor.

Cancer

Though less common, certain types of cancer can cause generalized itching and itchy ankles. These include the following types of cancer:

  • blood
  • liver
  • skin
  • kidney
  • lymphatic system

Some treatments for cancer, such as chemotherapy, can also result in itchiness. Only a doctor can determine whether a person has cancer and recommend treatment.

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Unexplained itchiness that does not go away, or becomes worse, should be assessed by a doctor.

Anyone with unexplained, long-lasting itchiness should see a doctor, as this may indicate a more serious condition.

If a rash is accompanied by other symptoms, such as a fever, schedule an appointment as soon as possible.

People with known conditions who develop itchy ankles should tell their doctors about this new symptom.

General steps may include:

  • eating a balanced diet
  • avoiding prolonged, unprotected sun exposure
  • regulating diabetes
  • treating psoriasis and eczema
  • regular exercise
  • regular moisturizing
  • avoiding contact with known allergens or irritants

Treatment for itchy ankles usually involves addressing the cause. People with diabetes, other conditions that often result in rashes or itchiness, or those who cannot explain their itchiness should consult a doctor.