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Itchy Ankles: Causes and Treatments

If you’ve got itchy ankles without a known cause, you’ve come to the right place.

This can be a very annoying symptom, especially when you aren’t getting answers.

Most of the time, it’s a benign symptom that goes away on its own. Other times, it’s a sign of something serious- diabetes, cancer, etc.

The latter is rare but still possible. Below, we’ll talk about all the potential causes to itchy ankles.

Understanding The “Scratch-Itch” Cycle

The “scratch-itch” cycle refers to a cycle by which you make an itch worse by scratching it.

It goes like this: a person feels an itchy on their ankle, they scratch it, and then it makes the itch worse. This can turn a relatively minor itch into a very prominent one.

For this reason, it’s recommended that you try to ignore it (we understand this is easier said than done).

If the itching is getting so bad that it’s ruining your quality of life, then it’s time to investigate. The next section will show you all the possible causes.

Bottom Line: The “scratch-itch” cycle is what happens when you make an itch worse by scratching it.

What Causes Itchy Ankles?

There are countless causes to itchy ankles, more than we can fit on this page.

We will, however, talk about some of the more common causes. In general, the causes can be broken down into two main categories: extrinsic and intrinsic.

Extrinsic causes are those that related to anything outside of our body (like poison Ivy).

Intrinsic causes are those that originate within our body (like dry skin). Below we’ll talk about both extrinsic and intrinsic causes.

Extrinsic Causes

When you’re suffering from itchy ankles, here are some extrinsic causes to consider:

  • Geography: For whatever reason, Asians aren’t as affected by this symptom as Americans. Some researchers believe that it’s largely due to the differences in environment. Unfortunately, they can’t link it to any specific geographic feature.
  • Footwear: A common cause that many people overlook is footwear. You might be surprised to hear that your socks and/or shoes play a big role in the development of this symptom. For instance, socks made of wool tend to irritate the skin.
  • Ill-Fitting Socks: This sort of fits in with the previous cause, but it’s still worth mentioning. Socks that don’t fit well- specifically, socks that are too tight- can lead to itchiness as blood flow to the ankles gets reduced.
  • Insect Bites: If you’ve been bitten by a horsefly or other insect then this might be the cause to your symptom. Bed bugs and/or mites might also be to blame. Ankles are prone to getting bitten since they’re so close to the ground/grass when outdoors.
  • Band-Aids: Band-Aids are supposed to prevent blood from escaping the body, thus, promoting healing. However, if they remain on your skin for too long, then it can lead to itchiness. This is a cause that often gets overlooked.

There’s the possibility of extreme temperature (like a heat rash for example).

Your ankles might have also been exposed to certain chemicals (like house cleaning products).

Remember- these are examples of extrinsic causes, or things beyond the body.

Intrinsic Causes

Now let’s talk about intrinsic cases, or causes that are within the body. Here are some medical conditions that can lead to itchy ankles:

  • Skin Dryness: A common medical condition that can cause your symptom is skin dryness. This could be due to using harsh soaps, or occur because you’re not drinking enough water. In either case, it’s something you’ll want to take care of immediately to help reduce your itchiness.
  • Poor Circulation: If you’re older, or if you don’t get a lot of exercise, then poor circulation might be the cause. Your tissues need adequate blood supply to stay healthy. If they don’t get it, then it can lead to itching.
  • Scratching: As we mentioned earlier, there’s something called the “itch-scratch cycle”. This is when your itching becomes worse due to scratching. And guess what? The more you scratch, the worse it gets! Hence, try not to scratch.
  • Contact Dermatitis: Contact dermatitis is caused by physical contact with an irritant. The irritant can be the shampoo or soap you’re using. Once you eliminate the irritant from your life, your itchy ankles should go away. But first, you must figure out what it is.

When your ankles are itchy, this is a signal to pay attention to your body. It could be that something more serous is happening.

Poor circulation can manifest itself in more serious ways, so you’ll want to take care of it as quickly as possible. Talk to your doctor about some of the intrinsic causes to your itching.

Bottom Line: Itchy ankles could be caused by extrinsic factors (footwear, bites, etc.) or intrinsic factors (dryness, poor circulation, etc.).

How to Get Rid of Itchy Ankles

The first step is to figure out exactly what’s causing it. Otherwise, your attempts to get rid of it won’t work as effectively.

For instance, if it’s due to ill-fitting socks, then stop wearing them. If it’s due to contact dermatitis, then minimize your exposure to the specific irritant.

Here are some treatment options to consider:

  • Cold Compress: Believe it or not, applying a cold compress to the itchy spot on your ankles could make it go away. At the very least, it should minimize the symptoms. Apply for 15 minutes max. Repeat 4-5 times per day until it goes away.
  • Calamine Lotion: The cold compress is the easiest and cheapest solution you can try. However, if that doesn’t work, then you may want to consider using calamine lotion. You can buy it at most pharmacies, and it’s quite effective.
  • Ginger Juice and Oats: Some people have found comfort in mixing ginger juice and oats and applying it to the affected area. Apply no more than twice a day. It may or may not relieve your itchy ankles, but it’s worth a shot.

Finally, consider moisturizing your ankles daily to prevent them from getting too dry.

If you live in a dry/arid area, then this might be the most effective treatment you can try.

Bottom Line: Treatment options include a cold compress, calamine lotion, or a ginger juice and oat paste.

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