Leg itching is an annoying condition that plagues many people. The cause of itchy legs varies, and most incidents don't require medical attention. But in some instances, itchy legs become a serious problem, making sufferers unable to concentrate or carry out their daily routines. There are ways to stop itchy legs. But first, you'll need to pinpoint the cause.
Leg itching is often caused by dermatitis or eczema, inflammation of the upper skin layers. The two most common types of dermatitis are contact dermatitis and chronic dermatitis. Contact dermatitis occurs after direct contact with an irritant. Substances that typically trigger a reaction include body lotions, shower gels, fabrics and plants. With chronic dermatitis, sufferers aren't necessarily allergic to one or two particular substances. Rather, they have several allergies, and they may suffer from hay fever, food allergies and asthma. As a result, leg itching among such people is typically severe and long-lasting.
In the case of contact dermatitis, leg itching may begin immediately or within 24 hours of being exposed to an irritant. Mild symptoms (bumps, hives, redness) generally disappear within a week. It can take weeks for blistering and scaling to disappear. However, sufferers can speed their recovery by taking an over-the-counter or prescription antihistamine at the first sign of a reaction. Medications stop leg itching and get rid of bumps or hives. Because atopic or chronic dermatitis is more severe, leg itching can persist for several weeks, months or years.
Leg itching caused by an allergic reaction is generally easy to diagnose. Aside from itching, sufferers typically notice a rash and redness. In some cases, leg itching is accompanied by swelling or skin blisters. Identifying the cause of itchy legs and treating the condition is important because excessive scratching can break the skin and cause an infection.
Although dermatitis or eczema is the most common cause of itchy legs, a sudden rise in body temperature may also cause this condition. This is likely the case if your legs start itching in hot weather, after exercising or after spending time in a hot tub or sauna. In these cases, exercising in cooler temperatures, wearing loose-fitting clothes and taking an antihistamine can stop leg itching.
Because leg itching is often caused by an allergic reaction, the best way to prevent future incidents is to avoid the substance that triggers a reaction. Because most sufferers are unaware of substances that cause a reaction, doctors may conduct an allergy test to help identify irritants. They'll place patches containing common irritants on the skin, and then monitor the skin to see whether a rash develops. If a reaction occurs, oral medications and topical creams can ease discomfort.