By Medicover Hospitals / 18 Jan 2021
An uncomfortable and itchy sensation that creates an urge to scratch can affect any part of the body. The itching can have causes that are not due to an underlying disease. Examples include hair regrowth, sunburn, insect bites, dry skin, or healing wounds.
- What is feet itching?
- When to visit a Doctor?
- Home remedies
What is feet itching?
- An itchy foot is an irritating, tingling sensation accompanied by a persistent urge to scratch your foot. Redness, swelling, pain, peeling, and scarring can occur in the itchy area. The medical term for itching is pruritus. Although scratching may temporarily relieve your symptoms, it can cause further irritation or lead to an infection. In most cases of itching, it is best to abstain from scratching and leave the area alone to heal.
- The causes of itchy feet are numerous and can include insect bites, allergies, infections, and trauma. When wounds heal, they often begin to scratch, indicating improvement. Chickenpox, an extremely common childhood illness, is accompanied by red blisters that ooze and cause severe itching. Eczema, contact dermatitis, scabies, and pinworms are other causes of itching.
- Athlete's foot, a fungal infection scientifically known as tinea pedis, is a common cause of itchy feet. The fungus causes a dry, scaly rash that is passed from person to person. Exposure to infection occurs when walking barefoot on contaminated surfaces, such as pool facilities and locker room floors, hence the name athlete's foot.
- The heat and perspiration of the feet create a favorable environment for the growth of fungi. The condition can be easily treated with topical creams, but frequent fungal infections could indicate a more serious condition. People who have diabetes or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection are especially prone to athlete's foot and other fungal infections. Frequent use of antibiotics can also predispose you to develop yeast infections.
- Most causes of itchy feet are quite mild and should not be a cause for concern. However, your healthcare provider should evaluate for sudden, severe, or unusual itching. Itching caused by a severe food allergy can come on quickly with a strong urge to scratch. Sudden itching can be a sign of a severe anaphylactic reaction, making it difficult to breathe; causes bloating, fainting, and vomiting; and it is considered a medical emergency.
Underlying causes of itchy feet can include:
1. Peripheral neuropathy:
- According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, peripheral neuropathy is damage to the peripheral nervous system, which is spread throughout the body.
- Nerve damage can cause sensations, such as itching, numbness, and pain, in various parts of the body, including the feet.
2. Dry skin:
- Dry skin can sometimes be itchy. Risk factors for dry skin include:
- living in a dry climate
- regular exposure to water, for example, due to frequent hand washing required in the healthcare and service industries.
- swimming in chlorinated water
- If a person has dry skin on their feet, they may itch. Applying creams, lotions, or oils can help.
- If regular moisturizers don't work, a pharmacist may recommend effective over-the-counter (OTC) products.
- Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes sore, red, and scaly skin. It can affect almost any part of the body, including the feet. Psoriasis can be very itchy and painful.
- It occurs when a person's immune system begins to attack healthy skin cells. This speeds up the production of these cells and causes a rash.
- Treatments generally include creams and lotions that may contain tar, salicylic acid, corticosteroids, or a combination.
- Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a condition that is generally characterized by very dry and itchy skin. It can appear in many areas of the body, including the feet.
- According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, it is not clear what causes eczema, although a combination of environmental and genetic factors appears to be involved.
- Dyshidrotic eczema is a type that often appears on the sides and soles of the feet. It causes small, deep, itchy blisters. Women are twice as likely to develop this form of eczema.
- People can treat the itching that results from mild dyshidrotic eczema by soaking their feet in cold water or applying cool, wet compresses to the area.
- If the eczema is more severe, a doctor may prescribe creams or recommend over-the-counter solutions.
- Athlete's foot is a fungal skin disease that usually develops between the toes, although it can affect other parts of the foot as well.
- Athlete's feet can cause itching and a burning sensation in the infected area.
- Fungi thrive in warm, humid, and dark conditions, such as inside athletic shoes. An overgrowth of these fungi can cause athlete's foot.
- Antifungal medications, which come in the form of pills or lotions, are often very effective in treating athlete's feet.
6. Allergic reactions:
- Skin allergies can be itchy. They can be the result of particular skin conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis, or contact with a substance such as latex or pollen.
- Taking antihistamines can help control the symptoms of an allergic reaction. These medications come in the form of pills or creams.
7. Hookworm infections:
- Hookworm is a type of parasite that lives in the human intestines. People can get hookworms by walking barefoot in areas where the larvae are present. Hookworm infections are relatively rare in places with sufficient hygiene practices.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a person may experience itchiness at the site where hookworm larvae entered their body.
- Doctors can treat hookworm infections with drugs that target parasites.
- Scabies occurs when very small mites burrow into a person's skin and lay eggs, causing a very itchy rash.
- The condition is contagious and is spread through skin-to-skin contact. It can occur anywhere on the body, even the feet.
- Applying for prescription medicine directly to the skin can usually treat scabies.
- Diabetes is a long-term condition that affects insulin resistance and how the body turns food into energy. It can mean that a person's blood sugar levels are too high, which can have serious health consequences.
- Diabetes can cause diabetic neuropathy, which can lead to tingling, itching, and numbness, especially in the feet.
- Poor circulation due to diabetes can also cause itching. Also, having diabetes can increase a person's risk of getting bacterial and fungal infections.
- Even after they have healed, severe burns can cause lasting damage and itching.
- According to 2013 research, more than 90 percent of participants reported itching after a burn. For more than 40 percent of the participants, the itching persisted long-term.
Your doctor may run tests that include:
Some tests can check areas in or on the skin for the presence of germs, such as a fungus.
- skin scraping
- blood test
Your doctor will treat itchy feet based on the cause. For allergic reactions, avoiding the product or products that cause the allergic reaction can help reduce itching.
Treatments that can relieve itchy feet include the following:
Additionally, prescription medications such as SSRIs, gabapentin, or tricyclic antidepressants may be beneficial in certain patients.
- An H1-blocking antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), can help relieve itching. Antihistamines can have sedatives and other unexpected side effects. Older adults may need to avoid their use.
- If you have an athlete's foot, antifungal sprays or creams can help. Chronic fungal infections may require a doctor-prescribed antifungal treatment.
- Topical anti-itch medications, emollients like petroleum jelly, and steroid creams can help reduce localized itching on the skin's surface.
When to visit a Doctor?
See your doctor if your itchy feet do not improve with home care or if your symptoms get worse over time.
Your doctor will take a complete medical history and perform a physical exam to diagnose the causes of your itchy feet. Questions they might ask include:
- Have you recently started taking any new medications?
- Have you been exposed to possible irritants?
- Do you have any chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes mellitus or eczema?
- Has a family member, friend, or teammate recently experienced a skin-related concern?
Tips for treating itchy skin at home include:
- applying cool, damp cloths or ice packs to the itchy area
- make an oatmeal bath by grinding 1 cup of powdered oatmeal and adding it to warm bath water
- using moisturizers regularly
- testing topical anesthetics containing pramoxine
- applying menthol or calamine to the affected area, which can provide a cooling sensation
- A person should try to avoid scratching, which can often make itching worse rather than better. Scratching also increases the chance of infection.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Dry skin is a common cause of itchy skin without any rash. In most cases, dry skin feels soft. This can result from environmental conditions, such as low humidity and hot or cold weather, and practices that can decrease skin moisture, such as bathing in hot water.
Itchy feet, legs, or ankles is a common complaint in people with diabetes that can occur because of a period of too high blood sugar. The itching can range from annoying to severe. The itching can be relieved with treatment and can be eliminated if the underlying cause is treated.
Itching and the atopic skin - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0091674999700527
Itching as a systemic disease - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091674919305214