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Upper Leg Redness Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions

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Last updated March 24, 2022

Upper leg redness quiz

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Redness on the upper legs is most often seen as a rash on the thighs. This condition can be caused by contact dermatitis, or an allergic reaction from certain bugs or plants. Cellulitis can also cause a red rash on the upper thigh. Read on for more information about causes and relief options.

7 causes of upper leg redness

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

Squamous cell carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is a type of skin cancer. The most common spots for this cancer are the head (including scalp, lips, ears, and mouth), legs, and the backs of the hands and the arms. It appears on the skin as a tiny, painless bump or patch. The main risk factor for developing this condition is prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Sun exposure and tanning beds are both sources of UV radiation. People with a history of sunburns, previous skin cancer, and a weakened immune system are at higher risk for this condition.

Most cases of SCC can be easily treated because they grow slowly. Though if not treated, it can spread inside the body. Your provider will do a skin exam and possibly skin sample test, known as a biopsy. Treatment will depend on where the cancer is, its size, and your medical history. Some treatment options include cutting out the bump, freezing it, or using medicated skin cream.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: worsening face redness, rough skin on the face, scabbed area of the face

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Skin abscess

A skin abscess is a large pocket of pus that has formed just beneath the skin. It is caused by bacteria getting under the skin, usually through a small cut or scratch, and beginning to multiply. The body fights the invasion with white blood cells, which kill some of the infected tissue but form pus within the cavity that remains.

Symptoms include a large, red, swollen, painful lump of pus anywhere on the body beneath the skin. There may be fever, chills, and body aches from the infection.

If not treated, there is the risk of an abscess enlarging, spreading, and causing serious illness.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination.

A small abscess may heal on its own, through the body's immune system. But some will need to be drained or lanced in a medical provider's office so that the pus can be cleaned out. Antibiotics are usually prescribed.

Keeping the skin clean, and using only clean clothes and towels, will help to make sure that the abscess does not recur.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: rash with bumps or blisters, red rash, red skin bump larger than 1/2 cm in diameter, pus-filled rash, rash

Symptoms that always occur with skin abscess: rash with bumps or blisters

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Non-specific thigh rash

A rash is an area of irritated or swollen skin. Often, rashes are unidentifiable and some variation of normal. For example, scratching one's arm causes it to turn red (which is caused by mast cells releasing chemicals into the local area), but that's completely normal.

At this time, you do not need treatment for this rash. If it worsens, you may need to consult a physician.

Necrotizing fasciitis of the leg

Necrotizing fasciitis is a potentially life threatening skin condition stemming from the infection of a wound or injury. If left untreated, it can spread to body parts surrounding the infection changing the color of the skin and degrading the tissue underneath. This can result in muscle, tissue or limb loss and a severe body-wide response to the infection.

You should visit your local emergency room where blood tests can be run and a consultation can be made by a skin specialist. If caught early, antibiotics, cleaning, and a stay in the hospital can help control the infection. If serious, additionally procedures may be required. It is important to get treatment due to the possibility of this becoming a serious, life-threatening condition.

Rarity: Ultra rare

Top Symptoms: nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, fever, chills

Symptoms that always occur with necrotizing fasciitis of the leg: leg skin changes

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Molluscum contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum, also called "water warts," is a common, benign, viral skin infection. It causes a rash of bumps that may appear anywhere on the body.

The virus spreads through direct contact with the bumps, including sexual contact. It also spreads through touching any object that an infected person has handled, such as clothing, towels, and toys.

Most susceptible are children under age 10. Other risk factors include dermatitis causing breaks in the skin; a weakened immune system; and living in warm, humid regions under crowded conditions.

Symptoms include a rash of small, pale bumps with a pit in the center. The rash is usually painless but may become reddened, itchy, and sore.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination.

In some cases, treatment is not needed and the condition will clear on its own. However, if the bumps are unsightly or are present in the genital area, lesions can be removed through minor surgical procedures or treated with oral medication or topical agents.

Irritant contact dermatitis

Irritant contact dermatitis means a skin reaction that is caused by directly touching an irritating substance, and not by an infectious agent such as a bacteria or virus.

Common causes are soap, bleach, cleaning agents, chemicals, and even water. Almost any substance can cause it with prolonged exposure.

Contact dermatitis is not contagious.

Anyone who works with an irritating substance can contract the condition. Mechanics, beauticians, housekeepers, restaurant workers, and health care providers are all susceptible.

Symptoms include skin that feels swollen, stiff, and dry, and becomes cracked and blistered with painful open sores.

A medical provider can give the best advice on how to heal the skin and avoid further irritation. Self-treatment can make the problem worse if the wrong creams or ointments are used.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, to find out what substances the patient comes into contact with, and through physical examination of the damaged skin.

Treatment involves avoiding the irritating substance if possible. Otherwise, the person can use petroleum jelly on the hands underneath cotton and then rubber gloves.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: rash with well-defined border, itchy rash, red or pink, rough patch of skin, painful rash, red rash

Symptoms that always occur with irritant contact dermatitis: rash with well-defined border

Symptoms that never occur with irritant contact dermatitis: fever, black-colored skin changes, brown-colored skin changes, blue-colored skin changes

Urgency: Self-treatment

Eczema (atopic dermatitis)

Atopic dermatitis, also called eczema, dermatitis, atopic eczema, or AD, is a chronic skin condition with an itchy rash.

AD is not contagious. It is caused by a genetic condition that affects the skin's ability to protect itself from bacteria and allergens.

AD is most often seen in infants and young children. Most susceptible are those with a family history of AD, asthma, or hay fever.

Infants will have a dry, scaly, itchy rash on the scalp, forehead, and cheeks. Older children will have the rash in the creases of elbows, knees, and buttocks.

Without treatment, a child may have trouble sleeping due to the intense itching. Constant scratching may cause skin infections and the skin may turn thickened and leathery.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination, patient history, and allergen skin tests.

AD cannot be cured, but can be controlled through prescribed medications, skin care, stress management, and treatment of food allergies. Those with AD often have allergies to milk, nuts, and shellfish. Keeping the skin clean and moisturized helps prevent flareups.

Cellulitis

Crohn's disease is an inflammation of the bowel. It is caused by a faulty immune system response which makes the body attack the lining of the intestines.

The disease usually appears before age thirty and can affect anyone. Those with a family history may be most susceptible. Smoking is a known risk factor.

Aggravating factors include stress, poor diet, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and aspirin.

Early symptoms usually develop gradually, but can appear suddenly. These include fatigue, loss of appetite, fever, mouth sores, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and blood in stool.

Untreated Crohn's disease can cause ulcers throughout the digestive tract as well as bowel obstruction, malnutrition, and deteriorating general health.

Diagnosis is made through blood test and stool sample test. Colonoscopy, CT scan, MRI, endoscopy, and/or enteroscopy may also be used.

Crohn's disease cannot be cured, but can be managed through reducing the inflammation. Antibiotics, corticosteroids, and immune system suppressors may be tried. Excellent nutrition, vitamin supplements, smoking cessation, and reduction in stress can be helpful.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: fever, chills, facial redness, swollen face, face pain

Symptoms that always occur with cellulitis: facial redness, area of skin redness

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Allergic reaction to poison ivy/oak/sumac

Plants of the Toxicodendron genus are found throughout the continental United States, and exposure to these plants is a leading cause of contact dermititis, a medical term used to describe irritation and itching of the skin.

Firstly, to prevent allergic reaction to poison ivy from getting worse, wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water. Over-the-counter antihistamines such as Benadryl can help with the swelling and itching. Topical corticosteroids applied directly to the rash can also help relieve some of your symptoms

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: rash, itchy rash, red rash, skin changes on arm, stinging or burning rash

Symptoms that always occur with allergic reaction to poison ivy/oak/sumac: itchy rash, rash

Symptoms that never occur with allergic reaction to poison ivy/oak/sumac: fever

Urgency: Self-treatment

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

Questions your doctor may ask about upper leg redness

  • Do you have a rash?
  • Is the red area flaky and rough to the touch?
  • Did your symptoms start after you were exposed to glues, fragrances, preservatives, hair dyes, soaps, detergents, or other common household chemicals?
  • Did your symptoms start after you were exposed to nickel (commonly found in jean snaps, metal pens, paper clips, cigarettes, etc.)?

Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.

Upper leg redness symptom checker statistics

People who have experienced upper leg redness have also experienced:

  • 7% Lower Leg Redness
  • 5% Knee Redness
  • 4% Foot Redness

People who have experienced upper leg redness were most often matched with:

  • 66% Cellulitis
  • 16% Irritant Contact Dermatitis
  • 16% Allergic Contact Dermatitis Of The Thigh

People who have experienced upper leg redness had symptoms persist for:

  • 46% Less than a day
  • 25% Less than a week
  • 12% Over a month

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from Buoy Assistant.

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