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Upper Leg Itch Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions

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Last updated August 27, 2020

Upper leg itch questionnaire

Use our free symptom checker to find out what's causing your itch.

Most commonly, an upper leg itch can be caused by irritation from allergens and bug bites. Itchy thighs can also be caused by stress and restless leg syndrome. Read below for more causes and how to relieve inner thigh itch.

Upper leg itch questionnaire

Use our free symptom checker to find out what's causing your itch.

Upper leg itch symptom checker

Upper leg itch symptoms

An itch is an uncomfortable sensation on the skin that causes the urge to scratch. It is likely that itching can become bothersome enough that it can interfere with your focus at school or work, or even disrupt your sleep. There are several different causes of an upper leg itch (that can extend beyond simple skin dryness), and if it worsens or persists, you should seek care from a medical provider.


An itching sensation in the upper leg can be associated with various conditions and symptoms including:

However, sometimes an upper leg itch may not be associated with any visible skin changes. In this case, it is important to take note of other symptoms associated with your upper leg itch such as:

  • Timing Does the itch happen during a specific time in the day? After certain activities? Etc.
  • Laterality Does the itchy sensation occur in one leg (unilateral) or both (bilateral)?
  • Acuity Is this the first time the sensation has occurred? Or have you experienced upper leg itch before?

Scratching is also an important symptom of upper leg itch. Though scratching can be helpful in relieving an itchy sensation, it only offers temporary relief. Scratching can also result in breaks in the skin that can lead to bleeding or infection, further exacerbating the issue.

Although conditions associated with upper leg itch are not usually serious or life-threatening, it is important to make an appointment with your doctor in order to get appropriate, long-lasting care and prevent complications.

Causes of an upper leg itch

An itch, also known as pruritus, occurs as a result of irritation or stimulation of cells and receptors on the skin particularly those related to nerves. Stimulation of these nerve cells and the itching that results can be caused by multiple conditions that can be grouped in the following categories:


Many skin conditions such as eczema, hives, psoriasis and a variety of other illnesses that specifically affect the skin and its layers can result in itchiness of the lower extremities. Often, such conditions are also associated with symptoms such as redness, blisters or flaking. On the other hand, skin that is simply dry due to old age or temperature changes can also result in itchy skin.


Itching in the upper legs may be a sign of an underlying systemic condition. There are many illnesses that can also cause itching and they can be grouped into the following categories:

  • Metabolic Conditions such as diabetes and thyroid disease that affect the metabolic homeostasis of the body can result in itching of the upper leg as well as other parts of the body. In addition liver disease and late stage kidney disease can also cause itching.
  • Hematologic Blood conditions such as anemia and leukemia can cause itching in addition to symptoms such as fatigue and weight loss.
  • Neurologic Conditions that affect the nervous system such as shingles, diabetes and multiple sclerosis can also result in itching of the lower extremities and other parts of the body.

Upper leg itch questionnaire

Use our free symptom checker to find out what's causing your itch.

Upper leg itch symptom checker


Environmental causes of an upper leg itch can be related to lifestyle habits or certain exposures.

  • Allergens The skin works primarily as a protective barrier and is very sensitive to environmental factors that cause irritation or allergic reactions. Allergens can include drugs, topical treatments such as soaps or lotions, certain fabrics or metals, plants, foods and a variety of other substances. Itching that results acts as a warning or deterrent from using these irritants.
  • Insect bites A bite from any insect mosquito, spider, flea, etc. can easily stimulate the nerve cells on the skin that results in itchiness.
  • Stress Some people scratch when they are stressed, or scratch their skin as a habit in certain neurologic or psychiatric conditions.

This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Allergic contact dermatitis of the thigh

Allergic contact dermatitis is a condition in which the skin becomes irritated and inflamed following physical contact with an allergen. Common products known to cause allergic dermatitis include plants, metals, soap, fragrance, and cosmetics.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: upper leg itch, upper leg redness, scabbed area of the upper leg

Symptoms that always occur with allergic contact dermatitis of the thigh: upper leg redness

Urgency: Self-treatment

Restless legs syndrome (rls)

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a chronic condition characterized by uncomfortable sensations while lying down and a strong urge to move the legs. Leg movement relieves the unpleasant sensations temporarily, often resulting in poor quality sleep. RLS is co..


A dermatofibroma is a common skin growth that usually appears on the lower legs, but may appear anywhere on the body. These growths are benign (noncancerous). Dermatofibromas are most common in adults and are rarely found in children.

Symptoms include a hard, raised growth that is red, pink, ..

Insect bite from a chigger

Chiggers are mites that feed on humans and animals only while they are larvae, or their infant form. People can contract chiggers when they contact infected grass. Chiggers feed for three to four days on a piece of skin, and secrete a fluid that causes intense itching.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: lower leg itch, lower leg redness, knee itch, ankle itch, ankle redness

Urgency: Phone call or in-person visit

Non-specific insect bite

Insect bites are very common. The saliva given off during the bit can sometimes cause dangerous allergic reactions that affect your ability to breathe. However, the vast majority of insect bites have no adverse effects besides the inflammation where the bite occurred.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms:

Urgency: Self-treatment

Mosquito bite

Mosquito bites are bites from flying insects that feed on the blood of animals, including humans. Mosquito bites are more common during the summer or in warmer climates, at dawn or dusk, and near bodies of water.

In most cases, mosquito bites will cause a local skin reaction that gets better on ...

Normal episode of itchy skin

Itchy skin is also called pruritis. There are a number of "normal" causes for itching, meaning the cause is not disease-related and does not result in seriously damaged skin.

The most common causes are:

  • Dry skin, due to bathing in soap or bubble bath that may be too harsh and is stripping the natural oils from the skin.
  • Mild allergies, which may be caused by dust; certain plants and flowers; nickel-containing jewelry; and any sort of soap, detergent, lotion, or perfume.
  • Pregnancy, due to stretching of skin or to a condition called prurigo. Prurigo causes small, itchy bumps which may be due to an autoimmune system dysfunction during pregnancy.

Menopause, due to hormonal changes that may leave the skin overly dry.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination and sometimes allergy tests.

Treatment involves bathing only with mild, hypoallergenic soap; regular moisturizing with unscented lotion; wearing soft, loose, non-synthetic clothing; avoiding any substances that seem to provoke the itching; and sometimes prescription medicated creams.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: feeling itchy or tingling all over

Symptoms that always occur with normal episode of itchy skin: feeling itchy or tingling all over

Urgency: Self-treatment

Eczema (atopic dermatitis)

Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is a non-contagious chronic skin condition that produces an itchy rash. It is caused by a genetic condition that affects the skin's ability to protect itself from bacteria and allergens. The most susceptible are those with a family hi..

Upper leg itch treatments and relief

Many causes of itch in the upper leg can be stopped or prevented with simple lifestyle changes:

  • Keep the skin adequately moisturized Using unscented, dermatologically tested lotions and moisturizing cream on the upper leg can prevent skin dryness that can cause itchiness.
  • Avoid allergens Take note of symptoms that occur after using or ingesting certain substances and try to avoid them. It may be helpful to get formal allergy testing in order to be prepared and knowledgeable about your allergic triggers.
  • Reduce stress Stress can exacerbate itching and scratching. Try stress-relieving strategies such as meditation, yoga or behavioral modification therapy.

If your upper leg itch persists despite the home remedies above, make an appointment with your physician. If your itching is caused by an underlying metabolic, hematologic or neurologic condition, your physician will focus on treating that condition first. If your symptoms are due to another cause, he or she may suggest the following treatments that may help relieve your itchy skin:

  • Corticosteroid creams If your itching is due to a rash or skin disorder such as eczema or dermatitis, corticosteroids are helpful given their anti-inflammatory effect in addition to their immunosuppressive role.
  • Antihistamines If your itching is due to an allergic reaction, your physician may prescribe medications that fight the immunologic response causing your inflammation and itching.
  • Light therapy (phototherapy): This treatment involves exposing the skin to specific wavelengths of ultraviolet light in order to help get the itching sensation under control.

Upper leg itch questionnaire

Use our free symptom checker to find out what's causing your itch.

Upper leg itch symptom checker

FAQs about upper leg itch

Why is the itching only in my upper legs?

The lower extremities are particularly sensitive to changes in temperature and become easily dry and itchy, especially in low humidity conditions. While moisturizing, make sure not to overlook areas that are itchy or seem drier.

Will the itching spread from the upper leg to the rest of my body?

Depending on the specific cause of your upper leg itch, there is a possibility that the itching can spread from the upper leg to the rest of the body. For example, in many systemic diseases, itching may result in multiple extremities. However, in the case of an insect bite, the itching likely will not spread.

Is a rash always associated with an upper leg itch?

No. A rash is often associated with upper leg itch in conditions that cause irritation or specifically affect the skin layers. However, in systemic conditions or conditions related to stress or certain allergens, there is often no rash present.

What are the complications of upper leg itch?

Complications of upper leg itch are usually the result of persistent scratching. Scratching can cause breaks in the skin that lead to infection or other skin injury. Furthermore, scratching can lead to scarring and thickening of the skin.

Is upper leg itching a temporary or chronic condition?

Upper leg itch can be either temporary or chronic depending on the underlying cause. Usually, upper leg itch associated with allergens resolves once the offending agent is discontinued. However, upper leg itch associated with chronic conditions such as diabetes or liver disease can persist especially if adequate treatment is not obtained.

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Dr. Rothschild has been a faculty member at Brigham and Women’s Hospital where he is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He currently practices as a hospitalist at Newton Wellesley Hospital. In 1978, Dr. Rothschild received his MD at the Medical College of Wisconsin and trained in internal medicine followed by a fellowship in critical care medicine. He also received an MP...
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  4. Scientific American. (2018). Why and how do body parts itch? Why does it feel good to scratch an itch? Scientific American. Scientific American Link