Are itchy ankles driving you batty? There are several possible causes of itchy ankles. I consulted with Neal Schultz, MD, a dermatologist with a private practice in the NYC area, and founder of dermTV.com.
I will highlight more obvious causes of itchy ankles (even though what seems obvious to one person may not be to the next person), and then some causes of ankle itching that most individuals would never consider.
Dr. Schultz first names wool socks as a culprit. Do your ankles always or frequently itch during or after hiking, when you wear the wool socks? Wool socks that are tight against your skin can cause ankles to itch.
Even non-wool socks that are tightly around the skin can cause this problem. Wool socks can cause contact dermatitis, which will make the ankles itch.
Next up are mosquito bites, says Dr. Schultz. You may not be aware you were bitten, and then find that suddenly, your ankle is itching.
If you absolutely must wear wool socks for keeping warm during cold-weather outings, then see if you can loop the socks over the top of your outdoor boots or hiking footwear.
Another option is to wear cotton socks against your skin, then wool over the cotton. To avoid mosquito bites, make a point of applying repellant to your feet and ankles.
There are other causes for itchy ankles. Poor circulation can be one of them, continues Dr. Schultz, and this can cause swelling also.
He continues, “Over-drying of the skin of the ankles, which causes a condition called asteatotic eczema.
“Because there are so few oil glands near your ankles to make lubricating oils, over-use of harsh soaps will strip the skin of the lubricating oils, which causes the skin to become over-dried by loss of natural moisture, and that causes itching.”
Neurodermatitis is another culprit, “which happens as a result of a simple local itching of the ankle (or any other place on the body), to which people logically and rationally respond by scratching, except that the scratching causes inflammation in the skin and a release of histamine, which causes more itching.
“So there’s more scratching, and you’re then in an itch-scratch cycle where the itching begets more scratching and the scratching begets more itching,” explains Dr. Schultz. “It’s like a positive feedback loop.”
If your ankle itches and you’ve ruled out the above causes, or most of them, anyways, ask yourself if you had a Band-Aid or some kind of taping on the ankle very recently. An allergic reaction to the chemical in the adhesive will cause itching, and scratching it will aggravate the problem. Calamine lotion, and not scratching, will clear up the irritation.