12 Reasons You Have Itchy Feet and What To Do About It

Itchy feet can be both annoying and a sign of serious health issues.

You're in bed, rolling around, trying to fall asleep, but you can't stop scratching your itchy feet. The worst, right? 

You're in desperate need of a brilliant remedy for itchy feet. You may also be wondering what causes itchy feet in the first place. Alongside that itchiness, you might notice redness or a rash, blisters, dry or scaly areas on the skin, itchy bumps on your feet, and even swelling.

Itchy feet are often nothing more than annoying. But there are several causes of itchy skin that can affect your feet and link to serious health conditions.

Here are 12 causes of itchy feet to look out for, plus how to stop itchy feet from leaving you tender and uncomfortable.

Athlete's Foot

Athlete's foot is a fungal infection and a classic cause of itchy feet. 

"Fungus is able to grow and thrive in dark, moist areas, which is why it's able to grow so well on our feet," explained Yolanda Ragland, DPM, podiatrist and founder of Fix Your Feet.

It's common to pick up the fungus by walking barefoot in places like gym locker rooms, according to Adrian Cotton, MD, chief of medical operations at Loma Linda University Health in California. 

"It often presents as a scaly red rash, usually starting between the toes, and itching worse after socks are removed," explained Dr. Cotton.

According to the National Library of Medicine, the athlete's foot can lead to itchy blisters and cracked or scaly skin.

"Secondary bacterial infections can also occur from scratching the itchy area," noted Dr. Ragland.

Over-the-counter (Hypothyroidism is an underactive thyroid gland. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, one of the symptoms of hypothyroidism is dry skin, which can lead to itchiness.

"An underactive thyroid causes decreased cellular turnover, leaving skin dry, flaky, and itchy," explained Dr. Canuso. "This type of dryness can be treated with various types of [OTC] heel creams or foot serums to increase moisture to the area."

Your itchy feet should also clear up once you start thyroid medication to treat the underactive gland.) antifungal creams and sprays can usually clear up an outbreak and keep the infection at bay if you're particularly susceptible to athlete's foot. If those treatments don't work, consult a dermatologist.

Eczema

Eczema, or dematitis, is an inflammatory skin condition that causes dry, itchy skin and rashes on the face, hands, and feet, inside the elbows, and behind the knees, per the National Library of Medicine

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), eczema is not contagious. Eczema is a long-lasting condition that may get better or worse over time.

Treatments include medications, skin creams, light therapy, and good skincare. If you have eczema, avoid soaps, fabrics, and lotions that irritate your skin. Some people allergic to certain foods, pollen, and animals can develop eczema.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is an autoimmune skin condition that causes patches of red and silver thick and scaley patches of skin. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in addition to the soles of your feet, those patches may appear on the following body areas:

  • Knees
  • Elbows
  • Scalp
  • Lower back
  • Face

Treatments may include creams and ointments, ultraviolet (UV) light therapy, and medications like methotrexate.

Bug Bites

Depending on the season, you might experience itchy feet from pesky mosquitoes and other insects. 

In the case of mosquitos, bites trigger an inflammatory reaction in the body, including a release of the chemical histamine, according to one study published in 2022 in Frontiers in Immunology. Histamine causes the area to become itchy, said Dr. Ragland.

Bug bites can also bring swelling, redness, and irritation. They're "often painful in the middle with itchiness on the edges," Dr. Cotton added.

There are a few home remedies for itchy bug bites on your feet. Dr. Ragland added that a topical antihistamine, like Benadryl, can help relieve bug bites. You can also use ice or a cold compress to help quiet some of that inflammation.

Dry skin

"In our society, we bathe too much and too long, often with hot showers, without properly moisturizing the skin, which dries it out," noted Dr. Ragland. 

Dry skin on your feet can also be something you inherit from your parents, though infrequent, according to the NIH. Certain medical conditions, like diabetes and kidney or liver disease, can also cause dry, itchy feet, per the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD).

According to Dr. Cotton, not drinking enough water, taking diuretics, or exposure to heat or light can also cause dry skin if it's extreme or you have sensitive skin.

Dr. Ragland added that if dry skin is causing your itchy feet, you'll notice flaky, scale-like areas and cracks in the skin. On darker complexions, dry skin can look white or ashy.

A few preventive measures for dry, itchy feet? 

"Every day, use a good moisturizer for your feet, especially the bottom of your feet," offered Dr. Ragland. "For very dry skin, use moisturizer while your feet are still wet, as it helps to lock in the moisture."

Scabies

Scabies is a skin condition caused by microscopic mites that burrow into the top layer of skin. 

According to the CDC, adults with scabies can experience itching and rash over limited areas to most of the body. And in young children, scabies primarily affects the following body areas: 

  • Head
  • Face
  • Neck
  • Palms of the hands
  • Soles of the feet

Some people with scabies develop a rash, sores, or thick, crusty areas. The itching is usually very intense and often worse at night.

"Since scabies is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact, it can be contracted by anyone regardless of age, economic status, or race," said Dr. Ragland.

Most people with scabies can treat their condition with prescription creams and lotions. And some people may also need oral medication, according to Dr. Ragland. Antihistamines and steroid creams can also help relieve the itchy, inflammatory response.

If you have scabies, keep your feet clean and to yourself, as it is very contagious, explained Dr. Cotton. Wash clothing and bedding daily until scabies is gone.

Allergic Contact Dermatitis

An itchy rash on your feet could be allergic contact dermatitis, an allergic reaction to something your feet have come in contact with. 

"Exposure to irritants, such as chemicals, or even allergens in soaps, cosmetics, and plants can cause allergic contact dermatitis," said Dana Canuso, DPM, a podiatric surgeon. 

One allergen that commonly affects the feet is the dye found in dark socks.

"Dermatitis from [dye] can cause itchy feet wherever the sock touched the foot," added Dr. Canuso.

So, it may help to get rid of those socks. Also, using an OTC anti-itch cream may relieve discomfort.

Kidney Disease

Certain medical conditions, like kidney disease, can lead to itchy hands and feet, according to one study published in 2019 in Cureus.

"When our kidneys fail to function properly, fluid and waste that the kidneys can't remove stay in our blood," explained Dr. Canuso. "This buildup of waste and increase in fluid can cause severe itching in all extremities, usually noticed first in the legs and feet."

Treating the underlying disease and its complications, whether with prescription medications or dialysis, can often help alleviate the itching symptoms.

Thyroid Problems

Hypothyroidism is an underactive thyroid gland. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, one of the symptoms of hypothyroidism is dry skin, which can lead to itchiness.

"An underactive thyroid causes decreased cellular turnover, leaving skin dry, flaky, and itchy," explained Dr. Canuso. "This type of dryness can be treated with various types of [OTC] heel creams or foot serums to increase moisture to the area."

Your itchy feet should also clear up once you start thyroid medication to treat the underactive gland.

Pruritus Gravidarum

If you're pregnant and can't stop scratching your itchy feet, you could have pruritus gravidarum. 

According to the National Library of Medicine, pruritus gravidarum is severe itchiness during pregnancy. A blockage of bile from the liver, called cholestasis, causes the symptom, explained Dr. Canuso. The condition mainly affects the abdomen, hands, and feet, leading to itchy palms and soles.

Pruritus gravidarum is relatively uncommon, occurring in less than 1% of pregnancies globally, according to a review published in 2019 in Obstetric Medicine.

If you experience the symptom, you may discuss treatment options with your healthcare provider, including oral prescription medications. Dr. Cotton added that antihistamine ointments or creams could also help soothe the itchiness.

Diabetes

According to the National Library of Medicine, high blood sugar in people with diabetes can cause dry, itchy skin—including on the feet.

High blood sugar can also lead to circulation problems, which increases the risk of open sores and infections on the feet and legs. 

"Some people even say they never had foot fungus before they had diabetes," noted Dr. Ragland.

You can treat dry, itchy feet with moisturizers. Also, you can treat fungal infections like athlete's foot—with an OTC antifungal cream or spray. In general, you should consult diabetes treatment with your healthcare provider.

Cancer

While rare, itchy feet could be a sign of cancer. Liver cancer—or other cancers that have spread to the liver—can cause jaundice, per the American Cancer Society. Jaundice is a yellowing of the skin associated with a buildup of bilirubin. Bilirubin is a compound formed in the liver. 

"Bilirubin can react with skin, causing you to itch, especially on your hands and feet," Dr. Canuso said.

To treat those skin changes, you must first check with your healthcare provider to treat the underlying cause.

Leukemia, lymphoma, and skin cancer may also cause itching, although it's unusual to have skin cancer on your feet. 

Per the American Cancer Society, treatments for cancer, like chemotherapy and radiation, can cause itching, too.

A Quick Review

There are many potential causes for itchy feet. Some are mild and easily treated with OTC medicines. 

In contrast, others are more complicated and need the help of a healthcare provider. If you try treating your itchy feet, and symptoms don't go away, it may help to talk with your healthcare provider.

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