Causes of Itchy Legs and What to Do About It

Causes of Itchy Legs and What to Do About It:

The causes of itchy legs are not fully understood. Some say that there could be several reasons for itchy legs such as allergies, food allergy, viral infection or even bacteria infections. But most likely the cause is genetic and is inherited from parents to their children.

Itching is one of the symptoms of a common skin condition called eczema. Eczema is caused by overgrowth of certain types of white blood cells (T cells) in your body. These white blood cells produce chemicals that cause your immune system to attack healthy skin cells and other parts of your body.

When these white blood cell attacks occur, they can lead to redness, swelling, pain and itching.

There are many different types of eczema but all of them have similar symptoms. They include:

Swelling and puffiness of the skin. Itching is one symptom that usually occurs first. You may also experience blisters, rashes or hives on your face, arms, hands or feet.

Sometimes you will develop a rash on your genitals and sometimes you will develop itchy sores on your lips or tongue. At times you will experience painful cracks on the sides of your mouth or dryness of your eyes. In severe cases the skin can crack and cause bleeding of layers of skin.

Your doctor will ask you to describe in detail the location, size, shape and colour of the rash. He may also ask you if you are experiencing any pain, itching or burning sensation. To find out what is causing your itchy legs he might perform a skin scraping test or skin biopsy.

This involves taking a sample of skin from the affected area either by scraping it off or using a thin needle to take cells from under the skin. The sample is then sent to the laboratory for testing and examination. You may also be given a blood test to check the number of white blood cells in your blood.

In babies and children, an allergens panel (blood test) may reveal an allergy to milk or eggs. In older children and adults, an allergens panel may reveal an allergy to poison ivy or other substances. It is also possible to develop an allergy at any age.

If you are unsure of what is causing the reaction, your doctor may recommend performing a skin prick test or a patch test to check for common allergens.

There is no cure for eczema although there are several treatments available that will help keep the symptoms under control. The treatment will be prescribed based on the type of eczema you have and its severity.

General Measures for Treating Itchy Legs and Other Parts of the Body:

Some general measures that can help in relieving the symptoms of itching include:

Using Medicines to Treat Itching:

Your doctor may prescribe medicines that contain corticosteroids. These medicines are applied to the skin or injected into the blood to treat inflammation and reduce itching. The most common corticosteroid is prednisone.

In some cases your doctor may also advise taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Aspirin, Ibuprofen or Naproxen to relieve pain and swelling.

Antihistamines such as Hydroxyzine can be taken to relieve itching. Before taking any medicines, please inform your doctor of any allergies you have and about all the other medicines you are taking.

Surgery:

If other treatments do not control your symptoms, your doctor may recommend removal of the linings of your skin (epidermis). This treatment is called a dermabrasion.

Alternative Medicines for Treating Itching:

Herbal medicines such as calendula, chamomile or St. John’s wort are also available to relieve itching. Before taking any herbal medicines, please inform your doctor of your intention to use them.

Your doctor may suggest further tests to ensure that the herbs will not interfere with any ongoing treatment.

Can Eczema Be Prevented ?

Once you have developed eczema, there is very little you can do to prevent it from recurring. The best way to prevent the condition is to avoid exposure to the allergen or irritant that is causing the eczema in the first place. This means that if you develop hand eczema due to contact with water or detergents, you should avoid contact with these substances. If the cause is a food allergy, you will need to avoid that food item completely from your diet. There is some evidence that keeping the skin too dry or too oily can trigger eczema outbreaks. It would therefore be a good idea to use a humidifier or a moisturizing cream on your skin. You can also prevent the skin from becoming too dry by taking a warm bath or shower as these moist environments are less likely to cause eczema than dry environments.

The information given is not a replacement for medical advice, and is not intended to treat or cure any medical condition. Always consult your doctor for correct diagnosis and treatment.

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Sources & references used in this article:

Nocturnal itch: why do we itch at night? by T Patel, Y Ishiuji, G Yosipovitch – Acta dermato-venereologica, 2007 – ingentaconnect.com

Epidemiology of itch: adding to the burden of skin morbidity by E Weisshaar, F Dalgard – Acta dermato-venereologica, 2009 – ingentaconnect.com

What causes itch in atopic dermatitis? by G Yosipovitch, ADP Papoiu – Current allergy and asthma reports, 2008 – Springer

Itch: role of prostaglandins by MW Greaves, W McDonald-Gibson – Br Med J, 1973 – bmj.com

Peripheral and central mediators of itch by Ö Hägermark – Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 1992 – karger.com