Skin conditions are a common complaint presenting at pharmacies. With pharmacy being an easily accessible source of professional advice and support when it comes to health care, the pharmacist is very often the first place to go for help, especially when the patient believes their condition to be nonserious. Itchy skin can be incredibly annoying and when you scratch the itch you can make things worse by causing further irritation to the skin. The skin on your shins is the thinnest. I can often be the first area of the body to be affected by many skin conditions. Let’s look at some of the possible causes for itchy lower legs and ankles.
1. Chronic diseases
If you suffer from diabetes, there are a number of complications you may have to manage and pruritis, the medical term used for itchy skin, is one of them. This can be caused by poor circulation, high blood sugar which causes dry skin, nerve damage or diabetic kidney disease. Itchiness is also related to other diseases like thyroid disease, liver disease and advanced kidney disease.
You may have itchy legs due to an allergic reaction to something in your environment. The first thing to look for is whether you have some kind of rash or whether your legs are itchy because you have been scratching them. Itchy rashes are often due to contact dermatitis, which can be an allergic reaction to your soap, laundry detergents or body lotion. If you have an allergy, your immune system is involved and thinks your body is under attack, releasing histamine and this causes the itchy rash.
Itchy skin can also be a side effect or an allergic reaction to taking certain medications. In this case, there may be no visible rash or hives.
4. Skin conditions
If you have other symptoms like dry skin, blisters or flaking skin, then you may have a skin condition like Eczema or Psoriasis. Eczema is a common skin condition that often begins in childhood, especially if a parent suffers from eczema or another skin condition. Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition where skin cells multiply quickly, accumulating on the surface and causing the skin to become red and scaly.
There are certain infections that favour the lower legs, including cellulitis which is a common bacterial infection which causes areas of swollen, red and painful skin. Folliculitis is another infection that is caused by inflamed hair follicles. Tinea corporis or ringworm is also an infection that can be found on the lower legs.
6. Dry skin
Changes in temperature and humidity can cause your skin to dry out, making them itch. Your extremities like your shins can be more prone to drying out than other parts of the body. Cold weather and heating can exacerbate this.
As we get older our skin doesn’t hold moisture as well as it used to. Also, for women, the hormonal changes brought on by menopause can make the skin dry. Estrogen plays an important part in skin health, including stimulating the production of natural oils and as estrogen begins to decline the skin can become drier and thinner. This can make it more sensitive to soaps, lotions and laundry liquids.
An underactive thyroid can also be the culprit behind dry and itchy skin. If you are suffering from symptoms such as weight gain, tiredness, depression, joint and muscle pain, and dry and thinning hair; it’s important to speak to your doctor.
Iron deficiency anemia can make the skin itchy and more susceptible to bruising. If you have other symptoms like headaches, extreme tiredness, paleness, shortness of breath or dizziness; talk to your doctor.
Sunburn, especially when your skin begins to peel can be painful and itchy. Make sure to protect your skin from the sun by wearing appropriate clothing and using sun protection. If you have itchy skin, speak to one of our pharmacists about appropriate treatments and ways to prevent you from scratching your skin and making it worse. Your pharmacist can also refer you to your doctor if required.