Itchy feet can make you crazy, whether it happens at night, after exercise, or during the workday. There are many possible causes of itchy feet, and finding out what causes itchy feet can help you figure out how to cure itchy feet.
If your itch is unbearable, and you can’t stop wondering, “why are my feet so itchy,” we’ll help you get to the bottom of things. Then, we’ll offer some remedies for itchy feet, depending on the cause.
Common causes for itchy feet
If you’re wondering what causes itchy feet, there are some common conditions that are the likely culprit(s). One or more of these conditions can cause unbearable itch and manifest in different ways, like only itchy bottoms of feet, only itchy tops of feet, itchy soles of feet, red itchy feet, tingling itchy feet, or swollen itchy feet and ankles.
Here are four common causes of itchy feet and how to tell which might be causing yours:
- Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) is a very common condition that can cause dry and itchy feet, especially if your feet are often sweaty or your shoes do not have time to dry between exercise sessions. Athlete's foot is a fungal infection of the skin that usually starts between the toes. So, if you notice redness or itchiness between the toes that later spread throughout the foot, it could be athlete’s foot. You might also notice it as an itchy, scaly skin rash. Athlete’s foot can spread through skin contact, shared towels, and contaminated floors, and is similar to other fungal infections like ringworm and jock itch. Tight-fitting shoes can also cause itchy burning feet from athletes' foot. These are why this condition is called “athlete’s foot”.
The athlete’s foot is recurring and needs to be treated with an antifungal medication. If over-the-counter antifungal creams don’t improve your condition after two weeks, visit your foot and ankle specialists. They can correctly diagnose and offer the best treatment for itchy feet caused by athlete’s foot.
- Skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema. Psoriasis and eczema can happen anywhere on the body, but might be especially troublesome on the feet and ankles, which are often covered in socks and shoes and can remain in moist conditions for most of the day. Psoriasis can be very common on the soles of the feet, and can be treated with creams and medications like methotrexate, or sometimes with UV light exposure.
Eczema, or dermatitis, can cause dry itchy feet, hands, or dry skin of the face, inside of the elbows, and backs of the knees. Treatment for itchy dry feet caused by eczema can also include creams, medications like calcineurin inhibitors, good skin care, and light exposure. Some people experience worsened symptoms due to allergies, so it can be helpful to have an allergen test if you’ve been diagnosed with eczema. To get a proper diagnosis, visit a podiatrist or dermatologist near you.
- Bug bites of different varieties can also cause itchy legs and feet. Itchy red bumps on feet and ankles can be a good indication that bug bites are the cause of your unbearable itch. Some of the most common types of bug bites on the feet and ankles are mosquito bites, which may appear after spending time barefoot outdoors, especially during the summer months or after a rainy period.
However, mosquitoes aren’t the only bugs that love to attack the feet and can cause extreme itching or burning. Other bugs like Chiggers and other types of mites can cause extreme itchiness and discomfort on the feet and ankles. Chiggers (trombiculidae) are a close relative to spiders and ticks, and enter the skin where your clothing is tight-fitting, like around the sock line or waist band. These tiny bugs are almost microscopic and can cause extreme itchiness for 24-48 hours after their larva hatch and attach to the skin.
Other common bug bites can be caused by bedbugs or fleas, and can also cause itchy red feet. Changing your clothes after being outdoors, checking the skin for bugs, cleaning the skin, and applying anti-itch creams can help when you’ve been bitten. If you’re unsure what’s causing your bites, check with a dermatologist and take note of the types of outdoor spaces you’re spending time in. Different bugs like different types of environments and conditions.
- Different allergies can also be causes for itchy skin on the feet. Not only do skin allergies cause itchiness, but food and other allergies can as well. These include allergic reactions to fabrics and fabric products, lotions, perfumes, shoe products, and other products. If you’ve recently introduced new cleaning products or detergents in your household, and you begin to experience itchiness, redness or irritation of the feet and other areas of the body, it could be an allergy.
Less common causes for itchy feet
There are also several other, less common, causes of irritation and itchiness in the feet. If your feet are itchy during pregnancy, it could be due to a rare condition called pruritus gravidarum. Pruritus gravidarum is caused by a blockage of bile and can cause severe itchiness in the hands, abdomen, or feet.
Certain severe medical conditions, like hypothyroidism and kidney disease, can also cause dry or itchy feet. This is due to low cellular turnover or accumulation of byproducts in the feet, respectively. Unless you’ve had a diagnosis for one of these conditions in the past, you should not assume that this is the cause of your itchy feet. However, if you’ve ruled out other causes and have a concern for your likelihood of experiencing these conditions, you should talk with your healthcare provider.
In very rare cases, severe itchy feet can be an indication of some types of cancer. For example, liver cancer can cause a buildup of bilirubin, which causes changes in the skin. Similarly, Leukemia, Lymphoma, and skin cancer can cause itchiness, although they don’t often affect the feet.
Can poor circulation cause itchy feet?
Sometimes, poor circulation can create changes in the skin, particularly in the extremities. So, what causes poor circulation in your feet? You might be surprised to learn that diabetes can be one cause.
Diabetes can be a cause of poor circulation in feet, which can lead to itchiness, dryness, and skin changes. People with diabetes also experience periods of prolonged high blood sugar, which can cause itching. Itching of the feet, legs and ankles is a common complaint for people with diabetes.
Whether related to diabetes or not, poor circulation can cause dryness and slow skin cell replacement, which can lead to itchiness in the feet and ankles.
Home remedies for itchy feet
Once you know what’s causing your itchy feet, your next concern is most likely how to stop itchy feet. While your itchy feet cure will be related to the condition that’s causing them, you can probably find a temporary remedy for itchy feet at home.
First, be sure to remove socks and shoes and make sure your feet are clean and dry. You can try applying a cold compress or cold washcloth to help relieve the itch temporarily. Another home remedy for itchy feet can be soaking them in an oatmeal bath, especially if your itch is related to a rash or bug bites.
While you wait for prescription medications, steroid cream, or over-the-counter medicine, calamine or aloe vera lotions can help relieve some of the itch. If your itchiness is caused by dryness, stay ahead of that dryness by applying moisturizing lotions after you shower or bathe.
When you’re ready to treat the condition that is causing your itch, get in touch with New Jersey’s most trusted podiatry team to get to the bottom of it. We’ll help you determine what’s making your feet itchy, and how to end those itching sensations by curing or treating your condition.