Red bumps on legs causes frustration because of constant itching and irritation. However, most bumps are benign and should not cause worries. There are a number of causes that results in red bumps on legs. This article covers some of the common causes of red bumps on legs and also discusses treatment to get rid of leg bumps.
12 Common Causes of Red Bumps on Legs:
The following causes are often seen resulting in red bumps on leg. There are several other uncommon causes that also causes red bumps. Individual suffering with such bumps should rule out following causes that are often common and ignored.
#1. Bed Bugs:
Bed bugs bite can be one of the causes for red bumps on legs. They usually disappear within a few days. One should look for bed bugs under the blanket, bed sheet and around the bed. If you see one or two bed bugs that mean, there may be lot more. The live bugs also suggest possible several eggs laid around the bed. You must consult professional and get rid of bed bug, sooner the better. Otherwise, you will be going through several investigations to find out the cause of red bumps that includes blood test and radiological studies. If you ignore bed bugs bite you will keep seeing more red bumps as long as bugs keep biting your leg.
# 2. Flea Bites:
One can also experience small red bumps that resemble a rash, when bitten by fleas.1 They may or may not bleed, however, they are often itchy. You might develop hives with flea bites. Flea bites tend to be in groups of 3-4 bumps spread close to each other. Fleas are dark brown insects that mostly lives on animal body or soil. Fleas move from pet animal to adjacent human by taking a long jump of 1 to 2 feet in length. Flea population rapidly multiplies because of hundreds of eggs are laid on the carpet, bed and cloth.
#3. Ant Bites:
There are several types of ant we see inside and outside the house. There are over 1000 types of ants found around the world. The ants we often observed around the house are fire ant, red ant and carpenter ant. Most ant bites are caused by fire ant. The ant bite causes red hives that is associated with itching. The hives frequently get infected because of scratching and hives turns into pustules as well as blisters if ignored. The hives in later stage become itchy and painful.
#4. Non-Scabies Mite Bites:
There are several types of mites that live on human and animal body. The types of mites observed around house, pet animal and human body is depended on geographical area. The most frequently observed mites are clover mite, house dust mite, itch mite, rodent mite, bird mite, chiggers and scabies mite. Mites live on grass, leaves, birds and rodents. Mite bite causes skin bumps as well as allergic reaction like hives and breathing difficulties. Breathing difficulties is caused by bronchial asthma. The leg bump causes itch and pain.
Scabies is a contagious skin disease caused by mite bites.2 Scabies mites infest mammals and humans. There are several types of scabies mites. Mite burrows a tunnel up to 10 mm deep once infest human. Mite may not live for more than 2 to 3 days outside animal or human body. The mite bite causes red bump. The red bumps can look like acnes and may be very itchy.
Folliculitis is a bacterial or fungal infection of hair follicle.3 The small red bumps looks like pimples are observed anywhere over the body, where hair is found. The most common area where folliculitis seen are axilla, groin, pubic area and legs. Folliculitis over the face is often caused by shaving with blunt contaminated blade that pulls the facial hair follicle. Folliculitis in axilla, groin and buttocks is caused by wearing tight dirty clothing that pulls the hair and causes infection. Folliculitis is seen in all age group of adults.
The condition is often seen in individual suffering with overweight, diabetes, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, or AIDS. Folliculitus is often misdiagnosed as acne or eczema. Folliculitis causes itching during initial stages and later when infected forms pustules. The infection may spread to adjacent sweat glands and form a carbuncle. The multiple folliculitis and carbuncle forms furuncle. Furuncle is also known as boil. If boil or furuncle is ignored and not treated with appropriate antibiotics, then disease may advance and form a cellulitis. Cellulitis is infection of subcutaneous tissue that result in pus formation. Most folliculitis generally clears up on its own if not infected; but it may take 10 or more days.
#7. Keratosis Pilaris:
Wide spread, small and dry red bumps observed in few young male and female over the legs that is diagnosed as keratosis pilaris. Such bump disappears after age of 30 years. There are few data published that suggests the wide spread bump resulting from inflammation around hair follicle is caused by rupture of shaft of hair follicle4 or keratinous plugs blocking the follicular orifice. The condition gets worst in winter and better in summer.5 Bumps does not cause itching or pain. Most individuals are irritated with just looking at the bumps. Keratosis pilaris is more often seen individual suffering with dry skin or eczema. It must be noted that even though the condition is harmless, one must talk to the doctor about the effective treatments.
One of the red bums occasionally seen on leg is hives. Hives are also known as urticaria.6 Hives are simultaneously also found on other part of the body. American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology suggests, approximately 20% of individual get hives in their lifetime. Hives turn white when their center is pressed. Hives generally occurs as an allergy reaction to some foods, sunlight exposure, medications, insects, exposure to heat and cold. Hives may be a symptoms of certain diseases like hepatitis, sinusitis, colds, mononucleosis and autoimmune diseases. Further investigation is necessary to diagnose underlying cause of hives.
Eczema is often seen in children and disappears as child gets older.7 Individual suffering with eczema may develop red bumps around eczema on leg. Eczema is a dry and scaly skin condition. Occasionally in few cases around the margin of eczema red bumps are observed. The bumps are itchy and painful. The persistent itch causes skin laceration and infection that result in formation of blister and later starts oozing a clear or purulent liquid. Eczema lesions are caused because of lack of protein filaggrin in outer layer of skin that causes less protection irritants and allergens.7 The weak outer layer of skin cause itching and dry skin.
#10. Allergic Contact Dermatitis:
One of the most common causes of red itchy bumps on legs is an allergic contact dermatitis. The skin reaction is associated with hyperactivity of immune system when certain substances comes in contact with the skin.8
The skin swells and become red as well as dry.8 Next, itching develops and is followed by red bumps. You may not even be aware that you are having an allergic reaction to object or substance that has been used regularly by you and everyone else. The following substances trigger eczematous skin reaction:
- Latex rubber
- Plants like poison ivy
- Solution and detergent that is used for cleaning
- Skin lotions
- Metals like nickel and cobalt
- Oil base substances and
#11. Viral Infection:
Red itchy bumps on legs can also be due to a viral infection. Most viral infection that causes upper respiratory tract and gastrointestinal inflectional also causes skin eruption. Such eruption may not look like red bump. But chicken pox and shingles causes red bumps that follows pustules and then ruptures to form a crust. Chicken pox causes systemic infection and virus stays dormant in spinal cord. The same virus become active when immune system becomes weak. The virus starts multiplying and moves along the nerves causing neuralgia. Such condition is known as post-herpetic neuralgia or Shingles.
You can also have red bumps on legs because of Vasculitis. Vasculitis is rare disease and occasionally lesions looking like red bumps are observed over lower leg.9 The symptoms observed in such cases are red vascular bumps, may be severe pain in calves, fever, arthralgia of ankle and skin lesion. Vasculitis over leg is also observed when individual suffers with autoimmune disease and condition is known as Henoch-Schönlein purpura (HSP). HSP causes purpuric skin rashes on legs and buttocks.9 Such condition is often misdiagnosed as skin rash, flea bite or dermatitis.
Symptoms of Red Bumps on Legs:
Red Bump- Mostly, these bumps are small, raised, looks red and does not burst open. In most cases, described the red bumps are observed over leg and often seen with following skin conditions:
- Vascular purpura
- Itching- Most leg bumps caused by above mentioned conditions are associated with itching.
- Dry Skin- The lack of moisture and weak superficial layer of skin causes dry skin in most of the conditioned discussed above. Dry skin is characteristic of skin lesions like eczema and scabies.
- Pustules- Bumps following continuous scratching may get infected and form cystic swelling like pustules that is filed with pus.
- Blisters- Some of the bump may turn into blisters and become extremely painful.
You can prevent bumps turning into pustules or blisters by avoiding scratching. You may feel the serious urge to scratch these bumps. However, you should avoid scratching and use lotion or ointment that help to reduce feeling of itching. Scratching open up the skin and causes bumps to get infected that results in formation of pustules.
Treatments to Get Rid of Red Bumps on Legs:
Following treatment remains same for all the conditions.
Treatment for Itching10–
Topical Corticosteroid Ointment- Following corticosteroid local applications are available over the counter as ointment or cream.
- Fluocinolone acetonide 0.025%,
- Mometasone furoate 0.1%,
- Flurandrenolide 0.05% and
- Triamcinolone acetonide 0.1%.
Calcineurine Inhibitor- Available as ointment or cream
- Tacrolimus ointment (Protopic 0.03% and 0.1%) and
- Pimecrolimus cream (Elidel).
Antihistaminic- Antihistamines are available as cream or lotion for local application-
- Doxepin 5% cream- Doxepin is antihistamines. Need prescription
- Benedryl cream or ointment
Mint Oil- Menthol is extracted from mint oil or it is made in lab. Menthol gives cooling sensation that helps to reduce itching.
Menthol 1-3%- available over the counter as cream or lotion
Salicylic acid- Salicylic acid is keratolytic agent and helps to relieve itching. Salicylic acid 2 to 6% cream or ointment is applied over the skin. Such application unplugs the pores and reduces swelling and redness. The choice of salicylic ointment are as follows-
- Clearsil cream
- Duoplant gel
- Neutrogenal product
Local Anesthetics Cream or Ointment- Need prescription and available as cream or ointment. Following local anesthetics are used as cream or ointment. Local anesthetics blocks the itching receptors and patient does not feel itching.
- Lidocaine ointment
- Prilocaine ointment
- Cream that contains both lidocaine and prilocaine.
Treatment of Dry Skin-
Dry skin is treated with moisturizer. Moisturizer is also known as emollients. The most moisturizer contains following substance-
- Plant oil
- Mineral oil
- Cocoa butter and
- Fatty acids.
Treatment of Infection-
- Antibiotics pills or injection- Need prescription
- Antibiotics lotion or ointment- Neomycin ointment available over the counter.
Treatment of Allergy-
Antihistamines are used frequently in skin condition to treat skin allergies, pruritus or itching. Choice of anti-histamines are local application or pills.
Choice of First Generation Antihistamines Pills-
- Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
Choice of First Generation Antihistamines Pills-
- Fexofenadine (Allegra)
- Loratadine (Claritin)
Treatment to Remove Dead Skin or Epithelial Layer Of Skin-
- Hydroxy acid cream
- Lactic acid cream
- Salicylic acid cream
Treatment to Prevent Plugging of Follicle-
Treatment is considered when most other treatment fails to relieve symptoms of itching.
- Vitamin A cream
- Tretinoin cream (Retin-A, Renova, Avita) and
- Tazarotene cream (Avage, Tazorac).
Treatment Of Individual Condition-
Treating Red Bumps On Legs Caused Due to Allergic Reactions:
In order to treat red bumps on legs caused by allergic reactions-
- Contact- Avoid contacts with all allergens that may be causing the condition.
- Soap- Change soap until you feel your skin is not reacting to the soap.
- Avoid plants- Avoid exposing to poison ivy.
- Anti-itching ointment or cream- Try anti-itching ointment and cream
- Corticosteroid ointment- If all ointment fails to relieve feeling of itching then try corticosteroid ointment
- Oral antihistamines- Try oral antihistamines like Benadryl.
Treatments To Get Rid of Red Bumps on Legs Caused by Viral Infection:
There are several viral infections that causes red bump over the leg. The cystic red eruptions are caused by chickenpox and shingle infection. The treatment includes following options:-
- Rest- Take a rest and stay in isolation
- Fever- Treat fever with Tylenol
- Antiviral medications
- Anti-pruritus medications
Treating the Condition Caused by Vasculitis:
- Most vasculitis is caused by autoimmune disease.
- Treat diabetes
- Oral corticosteroid treatment
- Local anti-histamine ointment or cream.
Treatments To Get Rid of Red Bumps on Legs That Are Caused by Bug Bites:
- Red bumps on legs that are caused due to bug bites also tend to run through their course. However, you have to make very sure to remove the infestation.
- Look for bug- check bed, bed sheets, blankets and pillow
- Call exterminator
- Use anti-itching ointment or cream
Treating Red Bumps on Legs Caused by Eczema
- You may need to see dermatologist for diagnosis and treatment. Eczema can heal on its own. Eczema may not get better if associated with psoriasis.
- Moisturizing Cream- Apply moisturizing cream for itching and dry skin
- Corticosteroid Cream- Hydrocortisone or prednisone ointment are prescribed for itching and pain
- Antihistamine Ointment- Pierogis and tacrolimus cream or ointment to treat itching
- Antibiotics- Antibiotics are prescribed if signs of infection is observed.
- Immunosuppressant- If above treatment fails then try cyclosporine, methotrexate, and mycophenolate mofetil.
Treating The Condition Caused by Hives:
- Moisturizing cream
- Corticosteroid cream
- Antihistamine ointment- Pimecrolimus and tacrolimus cream
Treating Red Bumps On Legs Caused by Keratosis Pilaris:
- Moisturizing cream
- Corticosteroid cream to relieve pruritus,
- Antihistamine ointment
- Cream to remove dead skin-
- Salicylic acid cream
- Hydroxyacid cream
Creams to Prevent Plugged Follicles-
- vitamin A (topical retinoids) work by promoting cell turnover and preventing plugged hair follicles.
- Tretinoin (Retin-A, Renova, Avita) and
- Tazarotene (Avage, Tazorac)
Treating Red Bumps on Legs Caused by Folliculitis:
Conditions such as Folliculitis that cause red bumps on legs can be treated with some at-home care practices. Keep your upper legs clean and dry and also keep them away from irritating material such as wool. Also, wash your upper legs with a cleanser containing benzoyl peroxide and a medicated powder, every day. Apart from this, in case you suspect a mild infection, apply an antiseptic lotion. You must also avoid shaving for at least 4 weeks.
- Moisturizing cream
- Antibiotics ointment
- Antibiotics pills
Usually the presence of little red bumps on leg caused by above mentioned conditions may not suggest presence of serious disease. However, red bumps over leg should be evaluated to rule out vasculitis, autoimmune disease and contagious infection to prevent further deterioration of health and spread of disease. So, it is extremely important you must consult your physician or specialist to further evaluate the significance of red bumps. You should visit ER after working hours if you are suffering with pain, fever, and blisters.
Dermatitis caused by Ctenocephalides felis (cat flea) in human
Scabies: diagnosis and treatment
Folliculitis: recognition and management.
Keratosis Pilaris Revisited: Is It More Than Just Follicular Keratosis?
Natural history of keratosis pilaris.
Created: September 26, 2013; Last Update: February 23, 2017; Next update: 2020.
Allergic contact dermatitis: Overview
Created: July 13, 2017; Next update: 2020., https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK447113/
Henoch-Schönlein purpura presenting with symptoms mimicking balanoposthitis
Therapy of Pruritus
Tejesh Patel, M.D.a and Gil Yosipovitch, M.D.b,c, Expert Opin Pharmacother. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2011 Jul 1., Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2010 Jul; 11(10): 1673–1682.
- What Causes Petechiae on Legs & How is it Treated?
- Red Bumps on Baby: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prognosis, Prevention
- Causes, Symptoms of Bump on Shin Bone & its Natural Remedies
- 15 Useful Home Remedies To Get Rid Of Red Bumps On Legs