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I have really itchy lower legs

I have really itchy lower legs. They aren't constantly itchy but they randomly get itchy, around night time more so than any other time. Where I scratch so much it causes my skin to bleed which then makes my legs very sore for a few days. This has been the situation for around 2-3 years now, though it's not been constant, it could be like it for a week and then stop or it could be one day and then not be like that for 2 months, etc. I hadn't made any changes to my washing powder or moisturiser that could have caused this. Since getting itchy legs, I have tried many dry skin creams but still I do get itchy episodes. These are located to my lower legs only, and mainly on my shins (I used to suffer from eczema on my arms when I was younger but otherwise no other skin issues). Is there something you can recommend to help this or do you know what could be causing this/what it is?

1 March 2021

To treat the itch, you'd first have to establish the cause, e.g. skin dryness - a common symptom of menopause, sun exposure or allergy. Keeping a diary to record your meals, activities and when the itching occurs may help you to make the connection.

Something else to take into consideration is any medication you're taking at the same time the itching occurs, as this may also be linked to your symptoms.

In the meantime, there are things you can do to help manage the itching and/or soreness you’re experiencing.

Self-help tips to relieve itchy skin and soreness

  • Patting/tapping the affected area rather than scratching
  • Applying a cold compress or flannel to the affected area for 10 minutes at a time when required
  • If relevant, minimising spicy foods, alcohol, caffeine as these influence blood flow and are linked with itching symptoms
  • Bathing with cool or lukewarm water (avoid hot) and patting skin dry after bathing rather than rubbing
  • Minimising bathing time to less than 20 minutes
  • Reducing your use of perfumed soaps, shower gels and lotions
  • Avoiding tight fitting and irritating garments e.g. wool, and wearing cotton whenever possible
  • General nail health to minimise the damage caused by scratching.

Over the counter treatments for itching

  • Eurax cream has an anti-itching component. It’s usually recommended to be used two to three times daily and its affect lasts between 6 to 10 hours.
  • Another option would be antihistamine tablets or topical cream but please ask the pharmacist for advice on the side effects associated with different types of antihistamine before using. For example, some can cause drowsiness so wouldn’t be suitable to take prior to driving or using heavy machinery. Find out more in our NHS factsheet on antihistamines. 

If symptoms fail to improve after a week or two of following the above suggestions, I suggest you speak to your GP. They’ll be able to help to identify the cause of the itching and manage your symptoms going forward. 

Answered by the Health at Hand team.

Sources and further reading

What causes irritating itchy skin? – AXA Health

NHS 2021, Itchy skin. (Accessed 1 March 2021)

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