Whether with or with no rash, itchy shins (front of legs) can be pretty annoying. They can cause you an endless desire to scratch the affected areas of skin, sometimes leaving your skin red, raw, or even bleeding. This is not to mention that if shin itch occurs at night, it can disrupt your sleep. So what causes itchy shins? This page will discuss not only that but also appropriate treatments and home remedies for the underlying causes.
Itchy Shins Causes
Why do my shins itch every now and then or at night may be a familiar question to you if that area of your skin seems to have every reason to ask for a portion of your time in endless nail raking?
A shin itch means one of two things:
- You have a health condition that directly affects the itchy parts of your shins.
- You have a more serious health condition that causes itchy shins as one of the symptoms.
Some of the most common causes of itchy shins are discussed below:
1. Dry Skin
With very little fat, the thin skin around your shins is prone to drying. Itchy shins and calves with no rash may be just a case of extremely dry skin. This happens when the skin gets exposed to factors that cause it to lose its natural oils. Among the factors that can cause or contribute to the formation of very dry skin (xerosis) and thus itching (pruritus) are:
- Cold weather. Low humidity levels are partly to blame with the air conditioning playing a significant role as well. Some people even get itchy shins when they run the air conditioning in their car.
- Bathing with hot water.
- Bathing too frequently, more so with harsh, moisture-robbing soaps.
- Sun exposure.
- Old age. Older people’s skin is less capable of holding moisture, which makes them prone to dry skin and the associated itching.
- Hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is a metabolic condition in which the body produces insufficient thyroid hormone. According to EveryDayHealth.com, dry skin is seen in as much as 77 percent of all hypothyroidism cases. Dry skin is often accompanied by hair loss and could be to blame for your itchy shins.
- Menopause. Hormonal fluctuations during menopause often exacerbate dry skin and related problems.
Taking over the counter antihistamines and applying topical anti-itch creams usually helps to relieve itchy shins caused by dry skin. You will as well want to address the actual problem (dryness) by taking measures aimed at restoring skin moisture. Here are some tips and home remedies to consider:
- Apply a moisturizer regularly and immediately after showers and baths. Creams and lotions that contain nourishing ingredients such as lactic acid, glycerin, ceramide, Shea butter, or urea to your shins. Cetaphil and Cerave are widely recommended by dermatologists.
- Apply aloe vera gel such as Amara Organics to your shin two times daily.
- Don’t shower for too long and don’t use hot water. Use tepid water instead.
- Avoid using soap on the shins to see if that helps to alleviate the itching.
- Get yourself a humidifier. It goes a long way in adding moisture to your room.
- Drink plenty of water to rule out dehydration as a potential cause of itchy shins.
- Avoid excessive sun and wind exposure. A good sunscreen such as EltaMD cannot be overemphasized when going outdoors.
- Apply a teaspoon of yogurt to the skin around your shins. Allow it to dry, then rinse off with cool water. As one of the best home remedies for dry skin, yogurt helps to raise moisture content in the treatment area and thus combat itching.
Itchy shins may as well be a sign of diabetes. This is a chronic condition characterized by high levels of blood sugar levels. Diabetes occurs when your body is unable to produce adequate amounts of insulin, unable to utilize the insulin it produces, or both.
Poor circulation is usually to blame for the most cases of itchy shins or lower legs in diabetics. This results from narrowing and hardening of the small blood vessels in the legs. These blood vessels supply nutrients and blood to the skin tissues. The itching varies from mild to severe.
In addition to poor circulation, the following could be the underlying causes or contributing factors for itch shins in people with diabetes:
- Yeast (fungal) infections: people with diabetes are more susceptible to fungal infections.
- Dry skin
- Itchy shins from diabetes will usually be accompanied by other symptoms of diabetes such as:
- Blurred vision
- Increased thirst (polydipsia)
- Increased hunger (polyphagia)
- Unexplained weight loss
- Slow healing of cuts and wounds
- Tingling and numbness at the tips of the hands and feet
Controlling the level of blood sugar is the key to effective treatment of diabetes and elimination of the related complications. You may, however, be able to relieve the itching by observing the following home remedies and tips:
- Avoid smoking.
- Adopt a regular exercise routine to help boost blood circulation.
- Limit your frequency of bathing, particularly when the humidity is very low e.g. in winter. Also, don’t use hot water to bathe or shower. Most importantly, use mild soap.
- Apply moisturizing creams or lotions to the shins and the rest of the skin, immediately after shower or bath.
- Apply calamine lotion to help relieve the itching in the shins.
- Medications such as mild steroid creams and oral antihistamines can be prescribed to stop the itchiness.
3. Bug Bites
Another common cause of itchy shins is insect bites. Mosquitoes, fleas, and bedbugs are common culprits. You may, for example, have lots of fleas hiding under your carpet. When they bite, fleas cause red, itchy bumps and hives on the skin.
If fleas or other bites are to blame, high chances are that other members of the family will complain of itching as well. You might also see your pet scratching their fur. If that is the case, look for fleas and then use a flea control medication around your home and your pets.
If the itchy rash occurs at night only, bedbugs are likely to blame. Bedbugs cause a red bumpy rash typical to that of mosquitoes.
4. Allergic Reactions and Skin Irritation
Itchy shins could also signal exposure to an allergen or irritant. An allergen is any substance that triggers an allergic reaction in the body. An irritant, on the other hand, any substance that imparts a direct damage to the uppermost layer of the skin. Both allergens and irritants can trigger itchy skin in the affected areas. They vary from one person to another and include:
- Medications. Did you just start using a new medicine? It could be the trigger for the itching. Aspirin and a group of medicines known as opioids are common culprits.
- Food. Some people are allergic to certain foods.
- Rubber. The latex in the rubber is a common allergen.
- Some cosmetics and skin care products, e.g., lotions, hair dyes etc.
- Laundry detergents.
- Fabrics. Some people are for example sensitive to wool. If you wear shin guards for a sporting activity, it could be the fabric in it or the detergents you use to wash it.
- Some plants. If you have been hunting or on a walk in a bushy environment, your shins could have come into contact with a plant you are allergic to. Examples are common trouble plants are the sunflower, primula, tulips, poison ivy, and chrysanthemums.
5. Inflammation of Hair Follicles
You can also get a red itchy rash on the shins after shaving the hair on your legs. This happens when the hair follicles get irritated. The hair follicles may at times get infected, a condition known as folliculitis, or get an ingrown hair.
Improper shaving is often to blame for these hair follicle issues. Although anyone can be affected, people with curly hair, especially men, are at higher risk.
To avoid itching use new, clean razors every time. Moisturizing with a good cream or lotion also helps to prevent and alleviate itching and other problems. A lotion that contains glycolic acid may be particularly helpful.
6. Increased Oxygen Demand while Running
Unfit athletes and runners often get itchy lower legs a short moment into running or any other vigorous activity.
This is because, after a period of inactivity, the arteries in the legs don’t adjust (open) as quickly as they do in response to heightened oxygen demand. Low oxygen levels affect the adjacent nerves, culminating in itching.
The problem goes away after few days or weeks of training when the body learns to adjust itself.
7. Other Possible Causes of Itchy Rash
- Prickly heat. This is an itchy rash that affects people in areas with hot, humid weather.
- Biliary obstruction. This is a liver condition characterized by blockage of the ducts responsible for carrying bile from the liver to the gallbladder and from the gallbladder to the small intestines. Itching is thought to result from the buildup of bile acids in the skin. The itching may be worse at night and in hot weather.
- Kidney failure.
- Stress. According to Alan Rockoff, MD, a dermatologist in Brookline, Massachusetts, stress can trigger or worsen an itchy.
- Sunburn. Itchy shins may be the result of hours of sunbathing with the legs exposed to the sun. A sunscreen can help you avert this.
- American Diabetes Association: Skin Complications
- British Association of Dermatology (BAD): PRURITUS (Itching without a rash)
- Drugs.com: Itching Without Rash
- Everydayhealth.com: How to Look Your Best with Hypothyroidism
- Medscape.com: Biliary Obstruction