Red bumps or spots on the legs could signify a number of different health related problems and can be brought on by many different causes. In most instances, you shouldn’t panic when the appearance of red bumps show up on your legs. They can be itchy and unsightly, but are rarely more than an annoyance. Still, you don’t want to live with this condition for long, so the first step is to find out what some of the most common culprits are for red bumps on the legs.
Luckily for you, we have that covered. They are most commonly caused by allergies, insect bites, infections, and a number of other skin conditions. Consider these top five causes when looking for a solution to your itchy problem and follow these rules for how to get rid of red bumps on legs.
Five Causes of Red Bumps
- Keratosis Pilaris
Keratosis Pilaris on the legs are small red or white bumps that resemble goosebumps, and can appear on the fleshier area of the thighs. These bumps are rarely itchy, and are just more of an annoyance that can cause some self-confidence issues among those diagnosed with the condition.
It is a common condition, affecting approximately 50%-80% of teens, and 40% of adults, according to the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. This harmless skin condition occurs when pores are clogged with keratin, a protein found naturally in your skin, hair, and nails, that protects skin from infections and other harmful things. The buildup forms a plug that blocks the opening of a hair follicle, but doctors don’t know what triggers the buildup.
Those who suffer from dry skin are more prone to keratosis pilaris and the red bumps on the legs, usually worsening in the winter months when there is less moisture in the air.
Want to know how to get rid of keratosis pilaris? The best advice is to keep the skin as moisturized as possible. There is no cure for keratosis pilaris, but keeping the area hydrated especially in the winter months may help any further outbreaks. Use warm water rather than hot for bathing, limit time in the water, and try using a soap that has added fat or oil to soak moisture into the skin. Apply topical moisturizers to the area and a humidifier in your home to get the maximum hydrating benefits.
Folliculitis is a fairly common skin condition where hair follicles become inflamed, and is caused by a bacterial or fungal infection. Clusters of bumps on the legs that look like pimples develop around the hair follicles, the tiny pockets from which each hair grows. If not treated properly, the infection can spread and turn into non-healing, crusty sores. Severe infections can cause permanent hair loss and scaring, so it is important to take the necessary steps to keep folliculitis under control.
There are many different kinds of folliculitis, generally leading back to how the original condition started on the legs. A superficial form of folliculitis—and the most common—is bacterial folliculitis. This shows signs of white pus-filled bumps and is caused by staph or other various forms of bacteria entering the bloodstream through the infected hair follicle.
Causes of the skin condition and red spots on the legs can include friction from shaving or wearing tight clothing, heat and sweat, and injuries to the skin from scrapes or surgical wounds. There are many over-the-counter creams for the condition depending on the type and severity of the folliculitis. Try applying a warm, moist washcloth or compress several times a day to the infected area, following up with a soothing lotion to help reduce less severe outbreaks.
- Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)
If you have noticed red spots on your skin that combine in patches and itch like crazy, you may have eczema. This skin condition can be dry and scaly, or it can ooze a clear fluid from a blister-like looking bump. The word eczema is also used specifically to refer to atopic dermatitis, the most common type of eczema. This non-life threatening condition can be one of the worst forms of red bumps on legs, as it is one of the itchiest and hardest to treat.
The cause of eczema is not fully understood, but there are some common patterns. Environmental factors can bring out the symptoms of eczema, including irritants like soaps and detergents. Allergens such as dust mites, pets, mold, and foods increase symptoms, while hot and cold temperatures can increase the severity. Stress and hormones also play a role in the outbreaks of the skin condition. Since there is no definitive answer as to the cause of eczema, there is also no common treatment. The treatment will vary depending on the severity of the red spots on the skin.
There are many doctor prescribed steroid-based creams for severe cases. For light to moderate cases, a routine of moisturizing, keeping the area free of any skin irritations, and avoiding any food allergens will help with the outbreaks.
Hives, also known as urticaria, is an outbreak of swollen, pale red bumps on the legs that appear suddenly. They are either caused as a result of the body’s reaction to certain allergens or for unknown reasons. Hives are usually associated with itching, but may also burn or sting. They can vary in size and can join together to form larger areas known as plaques.
Hives can last for one day or fade within a few hours. Allergic hives form in response to histamine. Blood plasma leaks out of small blood vessels into the skin and histamine is a chemical released from specialized cells along the skin’s blood vessels.
For a severe outbreak of hives, a cortisone or adrenaline injection may be needed. For less severe hives, apply a cold compress to the affected area, sleep in a cool room, and wear loose-fitting clothing while waiting for the condition to lessen.
- Insect Bites
One of the most common reasons for red spots on the lower legs is bug bites. Common insects that leave small red bumps on the legs after biting include mosquitos, fleas, bed bugs, and chiggers. These bumps usually itch more than any of the pre-mentioned conditions but will last for less.
Itching may be treated with oral or topical corticosteroid creams. Calamine lotion can also aid in the temporary relief of itching due to bug bites. Prevention is the key to this condition, so remember to apply insect repellents and keep your skin covered if you are going to an area that could potentially be an insect biting area!
“Keratosis Pilaris,” WebMD web site, last accessed January 10 2017; http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/keratosis-pilaris#1
Mayo Clinic web site, last accessed January 10 2017; http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/folliculitis/basics/lifestyle-home-remedies/con-20025909
James M., “Eczema: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments,” Medical News Today web site, December 16 2016; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/14417.php
“Hives and Your Skin,” WebMD web site, last accessed January 10 2017; http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/guide/hives-urticaria-angioedema#2-6