What Causes Itchy Ankles? Plus Symptoms and Treatment Options

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itchy anklesItchy skin can be a nuisance on any part of the body, especially on the ankles. Sometimes itchy skin, also referred to as pruritus, can simply be the result of the skin becoming dry.

Other times it may indicate a serious underlying health condition. As such, a rash on ankles could be a condition alone or the symptom of something else.

So, what do itchy ankles mean for your health? Read on to discover the numerous possible causes and conditions an itchy ankle can lead to. We will also discuss whether you may be able to treat itchy ankles on your own.

What Causes Itchy Ankles?

Itchy ankles may occur alongside signs of injury or trauma to the region. In some cases, you may not show any signs of a problem. The itch may be localized to one ankle or felt throughout the body. We have outlined the most common causes of itchy ankles, beginning with the top six reasons that may be within our control.

1. Inappropriate Footwear

 The most common and obvious reasoning behind itchy ankles can be traced to wearing the wrong socks or shoes. The material of some socks can rub along the ankle and cause an itchy sensation. Fabrics such as wool can cause irritation to the skin. Itchiness could also happen when foregoing socks with sneakers that rest the top of the shoe right at the level of the ankle.

2. Insect Bites

Those irritating summer pests known as mosquitoes can take a bite of the ankles, causing an itch that never quits. It is important to keep the ankles covered, especially in the evening hours, to avoid such bites. Other bugs that can attack the ankles and cause an itch include bed bugs, fleas, and mites.

3. Heat Rash

A common problem among athletes and those over the age of 50, heat rash around the ankles can result in an endless itching sensation. The heat from the humid weather of the summer could cause your sweat glands to produce excess sweat. If you are wearing socks, the glands are blocked and the buildup of sweat from the inside of the body can affect the blood vessels.

3. Bandage

Similar to the above outcome when socks block the sweat glands, a bandage or gauze pad covering a cut on the ankle could also cause an itch to form.

4. Soaps

As various sock materials can irritate the skin, so can certain types of soaps or detergents. Furthermore, the ankle region has fewer sweat glands than other body parts. Scrubbing this area with harsh soap can strip away the body’s natural oils, causing the skin to dry out.

5. Neurodermatitis

With neurodermatitis, one small issue snowballs into a much larger problem. This skin condition begins as a tiny spot of itchy skin that gradually increases in size as it becomes itchier—due to all the scratching.

6. Infections

Different infections can manifest as itchy skin with no rash or as an itchy rash on legs with ankle rash. Insects, bed bugs, fleas, and even lice can carry parasitic infections that prompt many symptoms, including itchy ankles. The skin irritation could also be caused by fungal infections linked to ringworm, athlete’s foot, yeast infections, and jock itch. The fungi thrive on warm, moist areas such as ankles hidden by socks. A bacterial infection on the ankle region may introduce further complications like bone infection and gangrene.

7. Dry Skin

Whether your dry skin is caused by soap or fabric irritants, exposure to extreme temperatures, or even body temperature, itchy ankles can persist. Left untreated, dry skin can lead to open wounds and infections.

8. Injury

Trauma or injury to the ankle can cause itching because the region tends to become swollen. This stretching of the skin can lead to an itch. The addition of gauze wraps, bandages, or cloths can cause itching as well.

9. Allergies

Your itchy ankles can be the symptom of an allergic reaction to a particular clothing material (i.e. socks, shoes, pants, long skirts). There can also be an allergen attacking your internal system, with ankle itching being a result.

10. Hives

Hives are sometimes closely related to allergic reactions and present as small red irritating bumps that cause severe itching. They can be stimulated by chemicals and insect bites.

11. Psoriasis

This skin condition sees a rapid growth of skin cells, forming patches of raised skin lesions on the skin surface. It can cause intense itching and can be found as on the ankles and feet as well as other parts of the body.

12. Skin Products

Products for the skin extend beyond just your body soap and clothes detergent. Itchy ankles can be caused by your favorite bath oil, moisturizer, and even topical medications used to treat a wound or even an itch.

13. Sunburns

The pain of having sunburn can quickly turn the affected region into a field of itch. Be careful of where you scratch as small blisters or lesions can appear quickly and cause the itching sensation.

14. Eczema

One of many troubling skin conditions, eczema is a major cause of irritating symptoms such as itching. Ankle itch is a common problem among those suffering with eczema. This condition can be stimulated by environmental factors such as heat and genetics.

15. Liver Issues

Medical conditions such as liver problems can trigger symptoms such as itching skin, including sensation on the ankles.

16. Diabetes

Itching sensations are a dangerous side effect of this serious health condition. The itch can develop from bacterial or fungal infections. It might also indicate improper blood circulation.

17. Circulation

To expand on improper circulation, our feet are usually victims of poor blood flow due to different lifestyle factors and improper care of the feet. As blood collects in the feet and our ankles swell, an itching sensation may arise. This could also lead to skin wounds and lesions, which, of course, can lead to serious infection.

18. Autoimmune Problems

Health conditions such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis can see your immune system attack healthy cells. This can lead to an overall sensation of itchiness, including in the feet.

19. Cancer

Cancer of most organs, including skin cancer, can often induce the sensation of itchy skin. Common malignant conditions with itching include blood, lymphatic, liver, kidney, and skin cancers. Even the treatments used for cancer such as radiation and chemo therapy can cause itchiness.

Symptoms of Itchy Ankles

Itchy skin can be quite irritating on its own, so when other symptoms accompany the condition, it can cause even greater distress. If any bumps appear, they can be flat, raised, red, and patch-like. An itchy ankle rash can also mimic rashes that appear on the arms, legs, and chest. You can expect the itchiness and any other symptoms mentioned below to last from a few days to several weeks or even months.

  • Redness of affected area
  • Small bumps or spots
  • Open wounds or lesions
  • Rough scaly skin texture
  • Dry and cracked skin

Treatment for Itchy Ankles

Now we know what can happen by constantly scratching itchy ankles, let’s learn how to get rid of the itch quickly.

  • Apply a cold compress or ice pack wrapped in a towel to the itchy ankle.
  • Use a heat pack on insect bites to soothe the pain, swelling, and itch.
  • Apply aloe vera gel as a relief remedy for the itch and any accompanying redness.
  • Combine natural oats and ginger juice for a soothing paste to place directly on the itching area. Blend together one peeled ginger root and one cup of oats. The gingerol of the ginger will combat the inflammation.
  • Use clay or mud if out in the woods or outdoor environment to treat any itch from an insect bite, allergic reaction to a plant, or even for an itchy ankle from the heat.
  • Meditation, yoga, and other stress relieving techniques can be used to do with the thought of an itch.
  • Phototherapy is often used as a treatment for those who find little relief with home remedies. The affected area is exposed to wavelengths of ultraviolet light.

Itchy ankles can be a real nuisance, especially since our ankles are usually covered by pants or socks. This may actually be a good thing as it’s best to avoid constantly scratching an itch to prevent further complications such as infections. The itch may be caused by a patch of dry skin, or it could be an indicator of a severe condition that requires immediate attention. Before heading to the nearest drug store or to your doctor for relief, try some of these simple and easy home remedies.


Sources:
Igor, “Find Out What Causes Itchy Ankles And How To Treat Them,” Help Your Back web site, December 18, 2015; https://helpyourback.org/health/what-causes-itchy-ankles-and-how-to-treat-them/, last accessed June 6, 2017.
“Itchy Ankles Explained,” Heal Dove, February 11, 2017; https://healdove.com/disease-illness/itchy-ankles-explained, last accessed June 6, 2017.
“Itchy Ankles – Symptoms, causes, Treatment,” Bye Bye Doctor; http://byebyedoctor.com/itchy-ankles/, last accessed June 6, 2017.

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