Itchy Shins!
November 2, 2006 1:06 PM   Subscribe

Why are my shins so itchy?

Somehow over the last year I developed sensitive skin but only on my shins.

It started about a year ago I put on a pair of wool socks and felt something in them irritating me on my left shin. I itched it for a few days, developed a little abrasion from doing so freaked out and then didn't touch it for a while, but would put cortisone cream on it. It left a little scar.

Since then on both shins my skin gets very itchy--but only on my shins! Additionally, the skin is more sensitive than it used to be--I used a disposable razor a few weeks ago and I still am recovering from the bumps and pimples it caused. I don't have very sensitive skin elsewhere on my body.

I think if this was something like psoriasis, it would look much worse (right now at worst it looks like I have mosquito bites on my shins.) I don't want to pay to go to the dermatologist, especially for something that seems so random, but the paranoid part of me is thinking that in a year they're going to say, "It's cellulitis, and now we have to amputate your legs."

Have any of you ever experienced something like this that's so localized? Do I just need a better body lotion or is it possible I have a little something going on below the knees that needs attention?
posted by clairezulkey to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have extra sensitive skin on my legs, and only on my legs. I use Eucerin Dry Skin Therapy Moisturizing Creme, which is a very thick, gloppy cream, on my legs after each shower. I often use it twice a day during the winter because the air is dryer. That has pretty much fixed the problem for me, plus my skin anywhere I use it feels awesome and soft.
posted by decathecting at 1:19 PM on November 2, 2006

I second the moisturizer. Skin gets itchy in the winter. Use it twice a day and see if that helps before you freak out.
posted by kdern at 1:20 PM on November 2, 2006

Could it be eczema? I get it behind my knees and on the inside of my elbows. I've never had it on my shins, though. Eczema definitely makes your skin more sensitive, especially if you scratch it (which makes it much worse -- resist!) My eczema has never looked really horrible, mostly just like a lot of little red bumps. It is aggravated by stress, cold/dry weather and itchy fabrics like wool.
posted by puffin at 1:22 PM on November 2, 2006

I have this too. Weird.
posted by matildaben at 1:26 PM on November 2, 2006

My skin starts to get intensely itchy at this time of year. Dressing more warmly often helps more than any other treatment. e.g. If I go out without gloves, my hands will be itchy for days (and longer if I don't keep the gloves on after that).

I don't want to pay to go to the dermatologist

But it's worth mentioning it the next time you have an appointment with your regular physician
posted by winston at 1:31 PM on November 2, 2006

Second puffin -- sounds like eczema. Do you have asthma and/or a lot of sinusitis (post-nasal drip)? They've discovered that those 3 conditions are tied together genetically (on the same allele or somesuch - I am not a Geneticist, but I suffer from all 3) and so having one makes you a likely candidate for one or both of the other two.

And decathecting has it right -- Eucerin Creme is what my doctor recommended for my itchy eczema legs.
posted by junkbox at 1:34 PM on November 2, 2006 [2 favorites]

Agreed with others that it's caused by dry skin and winter (but not necessarily eczema). My legs get horribly itchy every winter, have since I was a kid. A humidifier can help. Put moisturizer on as soon as you get out of your bath/shower and again a second time each day and you should be able to keep it under control. Baby oil or baby oil gel (or unscented mineral oil) will leave you greasy but traps moisture better than anything else I've used.
posted by nevers at 1:37 PM on November 2, 2006

nth-ing the moisturizer. Same thing happens to me, and the moisturizer helps. But uh, definitely don't moisturize right after shaving your legs. God that hurt. If you shave/shower in the morning, moisturize before bed and vice versa.

Also what can help overall with the winter skin? Run a humidifier in your bedroom at night on low (but don't keep it right next to your head). Just adds a bit of moisture to the air, its great for your skin (all over) and helps with general winter skin itchiness a bit.
posted by jerseygirl at 1:47 PM on November 2, 2006

Wool socks, as in proper, straight off the sheep wool?

This is only anecdote, but rather than growing out of allergies, I seem to be growing into them (hay fever and cat allergies have all developed since I was 25). I started knitting a pair of wool gloves last winter and a few days later I noticed that I'd developed horrible, itchy, flaky skin between my fingers. Which friends who looked at it told me was a lot like eczema. I moisturised a lot and carried on knitting, as I figured that even if I couldn't wear the gloves, I could sell them to someone who could. The skin did clear up, and I haven't had a problem wearing the gloves (thankfully, because they are lovely). But I still think the wool triggered the problem.
posted by Helga-woo at 1:52 PM on November 2, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks all. I'll go buy some euceryn/baby oil now. I'm glad to hear it's not something in my head. I wonder why this just started happening recently, and why only my shins (I've lost a lot of weight over the last few years but I can't imagine what that would have to do with anything.)

The wool socks were definitely old-school itchy socks. I looked on web mb and saw that eczema can be caused by such irritants. weird.
posted by clairezulkey at 2:02 PM on November 2, 2006

I have the same problem and did go to the dermatologist (because I was scratching my legs so much in my sleep that they started to bleed) and he said it wasn't anything other than very dry skin but that my scratching had started an "itch-scratch cycle". He gave me some cream which helped and I just moisturize them in the winter and it's all fine now.
posted by marylynn at 2:28 PM on November 2, 2006

Eucerin is the way to go for super dry skin. Smear on a layer of cortisone cream too when you're really scratching.

Also, what kind of soap do you use? My mom, grandmother, and I all had terrible, scratch 'till you bleed skin on our legs and arms until we started using fancier soap that didn't have harsh detergents, artificial perfumes, and scary fats. We get ours from (a small business similar to Lush); I'm very partial to Algae Existance, Taj Mahal, and the olive oil soap.
posted by mostlymartha at 2:36 PM on November 2, 2006

My psoriasis, when not horrible, will sometimes look like that and sometimes, after using cortisone cream, it will disappear for months on end. I nth the idea of talking to your GP who should be able to identify it.

Also, check with family members. I had psoriasis for a couple of years before I thought to mention it to my brothers and it turns out 3/4 have it as well.
posted by b33j at 2:39 PM on November 2, 2006

First, don't use moisturizers that have alcohol in them, it will just make it worse. Try to find an all natural lotion. Most commercial lotions are mostly water, chemicals and polymers to give it the rich texture that occurs with "real" lotion made from butters and oils. (disclosure: I make organic bath and body products, and am thusly biased.)

The best way to deal with itchy dry skin is to apply a liberal amount of body butter or lotion as soon as you get out of the bath/shower, before you dry off. Give yourself a few seconds/minutes in the steamy bathroom, then towel off. You'll be astounded at the difference it'll make.

I recommend against baby oil and other petroleum based products. It's a temporary fix that doesn't solve the underlying issue of dry dermal layers.

Also avoid exfoliating products, despite how good it feels to scrub. :) It makes it worse. Switching to an electric razor will help a lot too.
posted by dejah420 at 3:03 PM on November 2, 2006

The best skin moisturizer I ever used was Bag Balm. Yes, it was originally made for cow's udders. It's still the best. It's a lanolin/petrolatum base with a trace of antiseptic, which is a good idea if you've been scratching. I recently had insanely itchy shins (like, waking me up at night itchy) for a few days due to the aftermath of a skin inflammation and the Bag Balm made it stop dead.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 3:18 PM on November 2, 2006

Sometimes skin abnormalities confined to the shins can be due to a thyroid disorder. Since everyone should get their thyroid checked once in their life (around age 30 is the American College of Physicians recommendation) maybe now would be the right time.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:48 PM on November 2, 2006

Are you also losing weight or having trouble sleeping? Because if you are (or you start to), you might have something more serious.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:06 PM on November 2, 2006

I used to suffer horribly from this---winter only. Plus a maddeningly itchy back, the kind of thing that made me back up against trees and scratch like Baloo.

I've been cured!

Solution: stop daily full-body bathing. Let skin's own natural oils have a chance to do their job. In the winter, 2 full baths/showers per week max and the rest is taken care of daily with what my sainted mother called a PTA. I'll let you decipher the acronym yourself.
posted by DawnSimulator at 8:10 PM on November 2, 2006

When this first happened to me it was during the winter and it got so bad that the itch would wake me up at night (still does if I don't keep on top of it) I went to my doc and he said, "You have winter(s) itch (xerotic eczema)." Now I have it year round. I use baby oil and a thick lotion to keep the dry skin in check, the trick is to not deplete your skin of moisture (lotta good suggestions in the thread already) and to keep whatever moisture is in your skin in.
posted by squeak at 9:09 PM on November 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

My wife had this problem and it turned out to be the detergent we were using for laundry, it was irritating to her skin when she wore pants or jeans that had been washed in it. We switched to All Free & Clear and it worked. You may want to try a few different hypoallergenic detergents (sorry, All is the only one I know). As for why only your shins, well, different skin areas can have different sensitivities. Good luck!
posted by mattholomew at 1:54 AM on November 3, 2006

Be careful about moisturizers, lanolin is a common allergy. If something makes it worse, read the label and see what's in it.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 4:49 AM on November 3, 2006

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