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Itchy skin on your lower legs can be near torture. There are many possible causes. Your doctor can help rule out many of them. You may need to see a dermatologist for diagnosis and treatment. The reference book, “Clinical Dermatology” describes several conditions that can occur on the lower legs and cause itching.
One of the most common is a condition called xerosis, a term for very dry skin. It often occurs on the lower legs. It is more common as you age as the skin becomes drier. You might not see signs of the skin being dry, but you may well feel it. A clue to this condition is not having a rash before the itching starts. You may develop red bumps, lines and irritation from the scratching.
You may notice that the itching from xerosis is more common in the winter, when the heat in your house makes the air drier. You may also notice that it is worse when you take a hot bath. It isn’t limited to the lower legs, but it often is most troublesome there and can itch to the point of pain. It’s nearly impossible not to scratch the area, but of course, this just makes it worse for you. The hands may also be affected.
If you have the autoimmune disorder Sjogren’s syndrome, dry skin on the lower legs may be one of your symptoms. Major problems with this disorder are dry eyes and dry mouth. According to the Mayo Clinic, Sjogren's syndrome causes your body to attack its own exocrine glands. These glands are responsible for skin lubrication as well as for producing tears and saliva. Autoimmune disorders wax and wane, so you may have any or all of the symptoms and then be free of them for a time.
Another common cause of itchy skin on the lower legs and the feet is insect bites. Fleas especially may be lurking in the carpet in your home. “Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine” explains that red bumps, hives and intense itching can occur once you have become sensitized to flea bites. If other family members and pets are itching and scratching, you should consider fleas as possible culprits. Look for them, and if you find them, treating the pets and the home will rid you of this cause of lower leg itching.
In any case, if the problem continues or worsens, you should see your doctor to rule out other skin diseases or complications. If the problem is xerosis, there are things you can do to help. Avoid soaking in a hot bath. While your skin is still slightly damp from a warm shower, apply a good moisturizing cream liberally. “Clinical Dermatology” recommends a cream containing lactate 1. The additional ingredients of menthol and phenol may help the itching. You may need to use a gentle skin cleanser instead of soap to avoid stripping the oils from your skin. Treat the affected skin very gently.
- “Clinical Dermatology” Third Edition; Thomas P. Habif, M.D.; 1996
- “Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine”, 17th Ed.; Anthony Fauci, Eugene Braunwald, Dennis Kasper, Stephen Hauser, Dan Longo, J. Jameson, Joseph Loscalzo; 2008
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