Read below about upper leg itch, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your upper leg itch from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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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.

Characteristics

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.

Upper Leg Itch Causes Overview

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 [1,2]:

Dermatologic

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.

Systemic

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 [3]:

  • 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.

Environmental

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.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Upper Leg Itch

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced upper leg itch. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.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.

    1-2 days

    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
  2. 2.Restless Legs Syndrome (Rls)

    Restless Legs Syndrome is a common condition characterized by an urge to move the legs in order to stop unpleasant sensations.

    RLS is a chronic and incurable condition, but many have their symptoms improve with treatment.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    daytime sleepiness, trouble sleeping, tingling lower leg, restless legs, difficulty falling asleep
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Dermatofibroma

    Dermatofibroma (superficial benign fibrous histiocytoma) is a common cutaneous nodule of unknown etiology that occurs more often in women. Dermatofibroma frequently develops on the extremities (mostly the lower legs) and is usually asymptomatic, although pruritus and tenderness can be present

    Resolves with treatment

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    small facial lump, pink or red facial bump, face itch, skin-colored facial bump, painful facial bump
    Urgency:
    Wait and watch
  4. 4.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.

    Once treated, the pain and inflammation should go away within days. Sometimes, itching may persist for several weeks due to what is called a delayed sensitivity reaction.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    lower leg itch, lower leg redness, knee itch, ankle itch, ankle redness
    Urgency:
    Phone call or in-person visit

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  5. 5.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.

    1 week

    Rarity:
    Common
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  6. 6.Mosquito Bite

    Mosquito bites are very common. They often cause itchiness and redness.

    Usually clears up within a week.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    mosquito bite
    Symptoms that always occur with mosquito bite:
    mosquito bite
    Symptoms that never occur with mosquito bite:
    fever, muscle aches, vomiting, loss of appetite
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  7. 7.Normal Episode of Itchy Skin

    Itchiness is an unpleasant feeling that makes you want to scratch. It is found as a part of many diagnoses, but it can also appear on its own without a particular cause, which is the case in this diagnosis.

    This should get better on its own relatively quickly

    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
  8. 8.Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)

    Eczema is a form of skin inflammation that causes skin to be dry, itchy, red, and irritated.

    This is a long-term, recurring condition but symptoms are manageable with care.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    trouble sleeping, feeling itchy or tingling all over, dry skin, scalp itchiness, flexor surface rash
    Symptoms that never occur with eczema (atopic dermatitis):
    fever
    Urgency:
    Phone call or in-person visit

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 [4]:

  • 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.

FAQs About Upper Leg Itch

Here are some frequently asked questions 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.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Upper Leg Itch

  • Q.Do you have a rash?
  • Q.Is the red area flaky and rough to the touch?
  • Q.Did you possibly brush into poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac?
  • Q.Did your symptoms start after you were exposed to nickel (commonly found in jean snaps, metal pens, paper clips, cigarettes, etc.)?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our upper leg itch symptom checker to find out more.

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Upper Leg Itch Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced upper leg itch have also experienced:

    • 20% Lower Leg Itch
    • 5% Knee Itch
    • 4% Ankle Itch
  • People who have experienced upper leg itch had symptoms persist for:

    • 30% Over a Month
    • 25% Less Than a Week
    • 23% Less Than a Day
  • People who have experienced upper leg itch were most often matched with:

    • 75% Restless Legs Syndrome (Rls)
    • 25% Allergic Contact Dermatitis of the Thigh
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK200940/
  2. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2003/0915/p1135.html
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2464269/
  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