Various health conditions, as well as issues such as insect bites and shaving, can cause the lower legs to itch. Some causes are relatively benign, while others are more serious.
When the cause of itchy lower legs is fairly harmless, a person can usually find relief from over-the-counter medications and other home remedies. However, some underlying issues require professional diagnosis and treatment.
Keep reading for more information about what can cause itchy lower legs. We also describe remedies, medical treatments, accompanying symptoms, and when to see a doctor.
Several health issues can cause itchiness in the lower legs. Below, find some of the more common causes and their symptoms.
Shaving products and techniques can lead to itchiness in the lower legs. Friction from razor blades can scrape and irritate the skin, while harsh chemicals in shaving creams can also trigger irritation.
Shaving can also lead to ingrown hairs, which curl over and grow backward into the skin. These hairs can form bumps that are red, itchy, painful, or a combination.
Insect bites are quite common, and they typically cause localized itching, burning, or stinging.
A person who has been bitten on the leg may notice one or more small red bumps, which may resemble hives, around the site of the bite.
Certain natural or synthetic chemicals can trigger allergic reactions. If a person has a skin allergy, they may experience the following symptoms in any area that has come into contact with an allergen:
- red blistering
If the lower legs, for example, come into contact with an allergen, an itchy, red, blistery rash — known as allergic contact dermatitis — can develop.
Poison ivy can cause allergic contact dermatitis, as can fragrances and other chemicals in:
- laundry detergents and fabric softeners
- over-the-counter antibiotic ointments
- any other skin care product
Some people naturally have dry, flaky skin. When the skin is dry, its barrier is compromised, which can cause itchiness — in fact, dry skin may be one of the most common causes of itchiness.
Scratching the itchy area may provide temporary relief, but it causes inflammation, worsening the problem.
People of all ages can have dry skin. However, it tends to become more common with age. By the age of 65, a person’s skin is thinner and retains less moisture, making it more prone to dryness and itchiness.
Eczema — or atopic dermatitis — is an inflammatory skin condition that may occur almost anywhere on the body.
Eczema is a very itchy skin condition, and affected areas may also be dry, red, and irritated.
Stasis dermatitis is an eczema-like disorder that typically results from circulatory issues in the veins of the legs.
The condition causes blood to pool in these veins, leading to a buildup of pressure. The pressure can cause the veins to leak, resulting in eczema-like changes, such as dryness, redness, and inflammation, as well as:
- other discoloration
- pain or a heavy feeling in the legs
- swelling in the legs
- varicose veins
- leg ulcers
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that forms patches and plaques of red skin.
More specific symptoms of psoriasis depend on the type, and there are five types:
- Plaque psoriasis, characterized by raised red plaques covered in white scales
- Guttate psoriasis, which forms small, round, pink, scaly patches
- Inverse psoriasis, characterized by shiny red lesions in the folds of the body
- Pustular psoriasis, which forms scattered pustules surrounded by red skin
- Erythrodermic psoriasis, characterized by fiery red areas of skin throughout the body
People with diabetes have an increased risk of developing conditions that can cause itchy skin.
Examples of such conditions include:
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), itchiness can be one of the earliest signs of diabetes. If the itching occurs mainly in the lower legs, it usually indicates poor circulation.
The ADA note that managing blood sugar levels daily and taking good care of the feet and lower legs can help reduce the risk of certain diabetes complications.
Graves’ disease is an autoimmune condition that triggers overactivity of the thyroid gland.
Although PM is usually painless, affected areas can be itchy and sore. People with the condition may also notice the following on their shins, calves, and feet:
- nodules and raised plaques
- prominent hair follicles, giving the skin an orange peel-like appearance
- purple or yellow-brown discoloration
The kidneys perform many important functions, including helping to maintain a balance of minerals in the blood.
In advanced kidney disease, the kidneys are no longer able to support this balance. This can lead to dry, itchy skin anywhere on the body.
Some other symptoms of kidney disease include:
- frequent urination
- foamy urine
- persistent puffiness around the eyes
- swollen feet or ankles
- muscle cramps
- tiredness or fatigue
- low appetite
- difficulty sleeping
- difficulty concentrating
- blood in the urine
People with Hodgkin lymphoma may experience itchy lower legs, hands, or feet. In some cases, the entire body may be itchy. The itchiness is rarely accompanied by a skin rash.
A characteristic symptom of Hodgkin lymphoma is painless swelling in the neck, armpit, or groin. The disease can also cause flu-like symptoms, including a fever and fatigue, as well as night sweats.
Some causes of itchy lower legs are relatively easy to identify and treat at home. However, if a person is not sure of the cause, they should see a doctor.
The doctor may ask:
- when the itchiness started
- whether anything may have triggered it
- whether there are any other symptoms
In some cases, the doctor may order laboratory tests to confirm a diagnosis or rule out other possibilities.
Home remedies, such as creams and ointments, can help relieve itchiness in some cases. For example, the right topical treatment may help soothe dry skin, insect bites, and mild skin allergies.
If an underlying health problem is causing itchiness in the lower legs, treating the condition should relieve the discomfort. This could involve, for example, medication to help regulate blood sugar in people with diabetes.
Consult a healthcare provider if lower leg itchiness:
- has no obvious cause
- persists for more than a couple of days
- interferes with sleep or daily activities
Also, see a doctor if this itchiness accompanies other symptoms, such as:
- weight loss
- changes in bowel movements
- changes in urination
- extreme fatigue
- fever, chills, or night sweats
- other flu-like symptoms
- a painless swelling in the armpit, neck, or groin
When the lower legs itch, the cause is usually something relatively harmless, such as dry skin. In these cases, good skin care — including liberal moisturization multiple times a day with a cream or a petroleum jelly-based ointment — will help relieve the sensation.
If the lower legs are persistently itchy or other symptoms are present, talk to a doctor. An underlying health issue may be causing this discomfort. If this is the case, treating the underlying condition usually helps alleviate the itchiness.