We have often experienced itching in some part of the body or other and we all know how irritating this urge to scratch can be. The medical term used for itching is known as Pruritus. As mentioned earlier, we have at some time or other have experienced itching which can be very irritating and similarly armpit is one area where this itchy feeling is extremely annoying and inconvenient to have. The itchy region can be flaky, scarring, sore, red or swollen. We can find temporary respite from itching through scratching the area; however, persistent scratching worsens the symptoms and increases the risk of the skin for contamination and infection. Majority of the times, it is best to leave the itchy area as it is, to avoid scratching it and let it rest and heal naturally.

Itchy Underarms or Itching in Armpits

Both men and women can equally suffer from itchy underarm or itching in armpits. The symptoms from itchy underarm or itching in armpits differ according to the underlying condition causing it. If the itching in the armpit persists for more than two weeks, then it is time to visit your doctor.

Itchy Underarms: Causes of Itching In Armpits?

  • Itching in Armpits Caused Due to Poor Hygiene: Lack of hygiene or poor hygiene is the most common cause of itchy underarms or itching in armpit. There is growth of bacteria in regions where there is dirt and sweat; and underarms are such regions where you will find both in abundance. So, always remember to take a shower after any physical activity or exercise to keep the underarms clean and to prevent itchy underarms.
  • Itching in Armpits Caused by Use of Dull Razor: Improper shaving done by using a dull razor or not using shaving cream when shaving underarms will lead to itchiness, dryness and irritation in the underarms. So, it is important to regularly change your razor and use appropriate shaving cream before shaving the underarms.
  • Laundry detergent can also cause itchy underarms or itching in armpits. In such cases, any area which touches the clothing can cause itching. So just changing the detergents can help in relieving itchy underarms.
  • Itching in Armpits Caused Due to Certain Type of Bras: Bras which have latex, nickel, elastic or rubber can cause an allergic reaction in some women. So, such women should wear bras which are made of natural materials.
  • Itching in Armpits Caused Due to Miliaria Rubra: It is a condition which causes heat rash and is found in people who are exposed to hot and humid environments or who are on bed rest for prolonged periods of time. Miliaria Rubra is also known as prickly heat and its symptoms comprise of red bumps and itchy underarms. Trigger factors of this condition include blocked sweat glands which trap the perspiration beneath the skin. This disease occurs more commonly in tropical regions.
  • Itching in Armpits Caused Due to Intertrigo: It is a common condition where there is rash in the skin folds. Areas such as underarms, groin or lower abdomen tend to have this condition. Patient has redness and itching in these areas and in some cases, the skin can be cracked or crusty oozing a foul smelling liquid. If intertrigo is left untreated, then it can cause a fungal or bacterial infection. Risk factors for intertrigo are poor hygiene, heat, high humidity, obesity and diabetes.

Serious Causes of Itchy Underarms or Itching in Armpits

  • Itching in Armpits Caused Due to Axillary Folliculitis: It is a condition when there is infection of the hair follicles in the armpit (often a bacterial infection). Folliculitis commonly heals on its own and is superficial in nature. This condition is characterized by itchy, small white pimples. Scarring can occur in deep folliculitis and in more severe cases there can be formation of boils also. Axillary folliculitis is not that common, however, it can occur as a result of using a hot tub which is chemically imbalanced.
  • Itching in Armpits Caused Due to Axillary Dermatitis can include allergic, atopic or contact dermatitis. The most common is contact dermatitis, which occurs when the skin comes in contact with an irritant. Any allergen which comes in contact with skin can also cause a rash or a reaction. In majority of the patients, sudden and painful rashes occur as a result of contact dermatitis. Allergic dermatitis will take a day to develop and may be itchier.
  • Itching in Armpits Caused Due to Axillary Lymphadenopathy is a condition in which there is enlargement of the lymph nodes present under the armpits. Axillary lymphadenopathy commonly occurs due to a benign disease and is mild comprising of symptoms, such as itchy underarms. If the size of the lymph nodes is great then they will be observed closely or removed.
  • Axillary Hyperhidrosis is a disorder of the sweat glands causing excessive sweating in the armpits. The exact cause is not known and this condition is known to occur spontaneously. This condition can be associated with the sympathetic nervous system. Axillary hyperhidrosis does not actually lead to itching, but due to the excessive moisture there can be peeling of the skin and infections which lead to irritation and itchiness.
  • Hidradenitis Suppurativa (acne inversa or HS) is a non-contagious condition which affects the sweat glands beneath the breasts, groin, and armpits. This disease comprises of clusters of cysts along with abscess formation. When the abscesses burst, they heal slowly or may not heal at all. Symptoms of Hidradenitis Suppurativa comprise of itching, tenderness and pain.
  • Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder where there is formation of red plaques on the skin. The skin becomes itchy and flaky. In inverse psoriasis, the red patches are not flaky and are smooth. This condition can affect the armpits where there is swelling and itchiness of the skin.
  • Tinea Axillaris is a term used to describe ringworm of the armpits and is also known as armpit fungus. Due to high moisture, decreased light and increased high body temperature, there is infection in the armpits. This is not a common condition and has an increased tendency to occur in people who have axillary hyperhidrosis.

Serious Associated Symptoms of Itchy Underarms or Itching in Armpits

Persistent itchy underarms should not be taken lightly, as they can also be a symptom of a life-threatening condition. Immediate medical attention should be sought if the itchy underarms are accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • Fever with chills.
  • Changes in the mental status.
  • Pain and stiffness in the joints.
  • Sudden swelling of the lips, tongue or face.
  • Problems with breathing or other respiratory difficulties.
  • Tightness or constriction of the throat.
  • If there is worsening of the symptoms during the treatment.

Treatment for Itchy Underarm or Ways to Get Rid of Itching in Armpits

It is important to identify the cause of itchy underarms or itching in armpits and treat accordingly. Some of the conservative treatment measures which can be undertaken to prevent and relieve itchy underarms include:

  • Keeping Good Hygiene of the underarms is important, as itchy underarms are commonly caused by poor hygiene. So to prevent this, it is important to maintain cleanliness of the armpits and the whole body in general.
  • If itchy underarms occur as a result of irritants, such as present in deodorants including parabens, fragrances, alcohol, aluminum etc. then they should be avoided. These irritants can trigger a negative reaction and should be avoided to prevent itchy underarms.
  • Shaving the armpits can lead to infected and ingrown hair follicles. So instead of shaving, waxing or depilatory agents can be used to prevent these problems.
  • Soothing lotions can be applied to the underarms, such as application of oils containing aloe vera, vitamin E or tea tree oil. Taking an oatmeal bath and applying calamine lotion also helps.
  • Hot compresses can also be applied for relief as they encourage drainage. But be sure to change the compresses and apply a fresh one with every use to get rid of itching in armpits.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: December 18, 2015

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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