Why Do I Have Itchy Feet? Causes, Treatments, and More

Medically Reviewed By Angelica Balingit, MD

Itchy feet can be irritating or uncomfortable, and they may happen alongside other symptoms. Itchy feet can range in severity and may have many possible causes. Treatment may help ease itching and discomfort. Itchy feet may feel like an irritating or tickling sensation, along with a persistent desire to scratch your foot. The medical term for itching is pruritus.

Pruritus of the feet can have many causes, such as:

  • dry or irritated skin
  • infection
  • bites or stings
  • allergic reaction
  • burns
  • diabetes
  • nerve damage

This article will discuss the causes of itchy feet, as well as their symptoms, treatment, and prevention. It will also explain when to contact a doctor and answer some frequently asked questions.

Inflammatory skin conditions

A person stands with bare feet on wooden decking.
Christian Gideon/Stocksy United (person appearing is a model and used for illustrative purposes only)

Many skin conditions may cause foot itch if they inflame or irritate the skin on your feet. These conditions may include:

  • dry skin
  • eczema
  • psoriasis
  • urticaria, or hives
  • prurigo nodularis, an inflammatory skin disease that causes rashes and hard nodules

While these conditions can have many causes, certain factors may lead to their development, including:

  • stress
  • skin injury or infection
  • exposure to irritants and overexposure to wet, hot, or cold conditions
  • nutritional deficiencies
  • certain medications
  • immune response
  • genetics

Additional symptoms

Symptoms of dry, irritated, or inflamed skin include:

  • flaky or rough textured skin
  • wrinkling of the skin, or prominent skin lines
  • cracking skin that may bleed or crust
  • rash
  • redness or discoloration of the skin
  • areas of lightened or darkened skin

Psoriasis may cause patches of thickened or scaling skin that looks discolored. Eczema may cause additional symptoms, such as fluid-filled blisters or raised bumps.

Symptoms of prurigo nodularis include round nodules and lesions, as well as plaques of thickened or discolored skin.

See more about prurigo nodularis, including symptoms and pictures of the condition.

Allergic reactions

Foot itch may occur as a result of an allergic reaction. This can happen after exposure of the skin surface to an allergen or irritant, known as contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis is a type of eczema.

Itching may also occur Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Governmental authority Go to source as part of a widespread allergic reaction — for example, due to food.

Irritants that may cause an allergic reaction include:

  • plants, such as poison ivy or oak
  • metals
  • industrial chemicals, such as those found in elastic, latex, and rubber
  • cosmetics, dyes, or detergents
  • certain foods
  • insect bites

Additional symptoms

Along with itching, contact dermatitis may cause blistering or dry and cracked skin. On darker skin, affected areas may appear brown, purple, or grayish. On lighter skin tones, they may appear red.

Sometimes, exposure to an allergen can cause a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency.

Seek emergency medical care for itching after exposure to a known allergen or itching alongside the following symptoms:

Infections

Many different types of infections may cause itchy feet if they affect the skin in the surrounding area or the nerves that connect to the feet, per 2018 research Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source .

Examples of such infections include:

Some infections may also lead to the development of eczema, which may worsen itching.

Additional symptoms

Other symptoms of infection, apart from foot itch, may include:

  • flushed or discolored patches of skin
  • blisters
  • cracking or dry skin

Seek prompt medical advice for symptoms of infection alongside fever or lesions that contain or leak pus.

Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the function of insulin, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels. Diabetes, and complications of diabetes, can lead to itchy feet and itching in other areas.

According to 2022 research Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source , factors that may contribute to itching for people with diabetes include:

  • age
  • how long you’ve had diabetes
  • your fasting blood glucose levels
  • conditions such as:

Additional symptoms

Other symptoms of diabetes you may experience alongside itchy feet include:

Peripheral neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy is when damage occurs to the peripheral nervous system, the large network of nerves that sends messages to the brain and spinal cord, experts explain.

When nerves experience damage or dysfunction, they may produce an itching reflex or other skin sensations, potentially causing itchy feet or itching elsewhere in the body.

Causes of peripheral neuropathy can include:

  • injury or infection
  • diabetes
  • arthritis
  • blood or blood vessel conditions
  • autoimmune conditions
  • hormonal imbalances
  • nutritional deficiencies
  • kidney or liver conditions
  • certain medications and treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy

Additional symptoms

Other symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, apart from itching, may include:

Other causes of itchy feet

Foot itch can result from additional factors and conditions, such as:

When should I seek help?

It is advisable to contact your doctor promptly if you:

  • have symptoms that do not improve, worsen, or improve and then return
  • have symptoms that do not improve with home care or prescribed treatments
  • experience other symptoms alongside itching
  • find that your symptoms and itch are affecting your quality of life

Seek emergency care or call 911 for symptoms of anaphylaxis or severe infection, such as:

What are the treatments for itchy feet?

Treatment for foot itch can depend on the cause. If the itch results from an underlying condition, your doctor may focus on treating this primary cause. In turn, this will relieve itching.

Additionally, many over-the-counter (OTC) products and prescription medications may treat itchy feet or support other treatment plans for itchy feet. These can include:

  • OTC treatments to alleviate itching or discomfort, such as:
    • emollients and moisturizers free from alcohol or fragrance
    • cooling agents, such as calamine or menthol lotions
    • antihistamines
    • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, for example, ibuprofen
  • medications to treat infection, such as:
  • topical anesthetics containing pramoxine
  • topical corticosteroids

What are home remedies for itchy feet?

Home care and remedies for itchy feet include:

  • avoiding scratching and any unnecessary touching of the irritated skin
  • sanitizing your hands and other items that come into contact with the skin before touching
  • applying a cool compress
  • taking a colloidal oatmeal foot bath
  • bathing using warm, not hot, water
  • drying your feet and toes gently and thoroughly
  • using a humidifier for dry skin
  • wearing soft, loose-fitting clothing made of breathable and non-irritating fabrics, such as cotton
  • changing your socks often

Other frequently asked questions

Angelica Balingit, MD, has reviewed the following frequently asked questions.

What do itchy feet at night mean?

Itching at night, known as nocturnal pruritus, can occur due to many causes.

According to 2021 research, itchy feet at night may indicate:

  • eczema
  • psoriasis
  • hives
  • stress
  • dysfunction of factors that influence standard sleep responses, such as:
    • temperature and fluid regulation
    • hormone function
    • pain response

Peripheral neuropathy may also cause symptoms, such as pain, that are worse at night.

What does diabetic itching feel like?

Itching with diabetes may feel like tickling or irritating sensation on the skin, or the urge to scratch the skin.

A 2022 review Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source suggests that diabetic itch is more often local than general. This means that it tends to happen in specific areas, such as the feet, rather than as a widespread or general body itch.

Why are my feet itchy but with no rash?

Causes of itchy feet that may not produce a rash can include:

Summary

Itchy feet can occur for many reasons. You can easily treat some causes, such as dry skin or mild allergic reactions. You may be able to treat or ease foot itch with OTC and prescription medications, as well as home care to soothe the skin.

Other causes may require additional medical care. These causes may include infection and chronic conditions such as psoriasis, diabetes, and neuropathy.

Sometimes, itching can occur due to urgent medical conditions, such as anaphylaxis or severe infection. Seek emergency medical care for symptoms such as fever, difficulty breathing, or changes in alertness alongside itching.

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Medical Reviewer: Angelica Balingit, MD
Last Review Date: 2022 Oct 13
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