Red Bumps on Legs, Are they Keratosis Pilaris?

The moment you notice red bumps on legs, the last thing you need to do is panic. These bumps, while itchy and annoying, are usually no cause of concern. In very rare cases, they are a sign of a more serious condition.

With that in mind, what are the causes for the bumps on your legs? In most cases, people think it is keratosis pilaris, one of the most common skin conditions. But is that the only one? Of course not.

Causes

Let’s break down all of the possible causes.

Keratosis pilaris

According to statistics, many of us have had this skin condition in the past. The condition manifests as small red or white bumps that resemble goosebumps and appear on fleshier areas of your arms and thighs. The bumps can itch very little or do not itch at all.

The common condition can affect between 50 and 80 percent of adolescents and 40% of adults in the United States [1]https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaad.2011.11.702.

The condition occurs because your pores are clogged with the protein keratin, protein found in the skin, nails, and hair. People with dry skin and eczema are more likely to get keratosis pilaris.

The condition is harmless, but you should nevertheless talk to your doctor regarding treatment such as medical creams.

Treatment includes products that contain lactic acid, urea, and salicylic acid. Keeping your skin hydrated and moisturized helps as well.

Folliculitis

This condition is typically caused by an infection in hair follicles of the scalp or on areas of the body that have been shaved. Staph bacteria is the most common cause of folliculitis, but it can also be caused by inflammation due to ingrown hair and fungi.

The condition manifests as red bumps or pimples on your skin, which are sometimes called razor rash or razor burn. Shaving, tight clothing, and sweat are typical sources of folliculitis.

The condition can affect people of all ages, but certain factors increase the risk, including having lowered negative immune system, HIV, AIDS, diabetes, having acne, having eczema, having a skin that has been damaged by hair removal techniques, and wearing tight clothing and clothing made of materials that trap in heat.

The condition usually clears on its own, but if it lasts for more than 10 days, you should check with your physician.

Eczema

When the red spots on your legs combine in patches, and they cause crazy itchiness, the cause probably is eczema [2]https://www.niaid.nih.gov/clinical-trials/eczema-atopic-dermatitis-studies.

This condition, also known as atopic dermatitis is a common skin condition, and it can be dry and scaly, or blister and ooze a clear fluid.

Eczema can flare up at times, with triggers including:

  • Soaps and detergents
  • Perfumes
  • Cosmetics
  • Cleaning products
  • Animal fur
  • Animal dander
  • Sweat and heat
  • Cold and dry conditions
  • Stress

The cause of the condition is still unknown. Some factors like genetics, including if a family member has asthma or seasonal allergies play a role.

Children born to older mothers are more likely to have eczema, and the condition is more common in urban areas with high levels of pollution.

The condition can affect people of all ages. However, according to statistics by the American Academy of Pediatrics, 85% of cases start in children younger than five years old [3]http://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2014-2812.

And another study shows that half of people that had eczema as a child, continue to have the condition at older age [4]http://doi.org/10.1111/jdv.12481.

As with most skin conditions, eczema can become infected, and you should avoid being around people that have cold sores or chicken pox.

Antibiotics, antihistamines, and corticosteroids are all used to treat eczema. There are also home remedies for eczema that can help you relieve itchiness and other symptoms of the conditions.

Hives

The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology says that 20% of people in the United States will get hives at least once in their life [5]https://acaai.org/allergies/types/skin-allergies/hives-urticaria.

The conditions manifest as raised, itchy, red, or skin-tone welts that turn white when you press their center. Hives can appear anywhere on the body, and people of all ages can be affected.

A number of triggers can activate your hives, including:

  • Certain foods
  • Pollen
  • Insects
  • Medications
  • Latex
  • Cold
  • Heat or the sun

Hives are mostly considered harmless. However, when accompanied by a systemic allergic reaction, you should seek urgent medical attention.

These are the symptoms to pay attention to:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Dizziness
  • Swelling of your face
  • Swelling of the tongue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting

Similar as with eczema, antihistamines are the most common treatment for hives. If the medications do not help you get rid of hives, a sedating antihistamine at night is the next step.

In some cases, a doctor might prescribe oral steroids and injections.

Insect bites

In some cases, especially if you’ve been out in the nature, it is a logical conclusion that your bumps are caused by insect bites.

When the bumps itch like the devil, then you can be sure it is an insect bite. Some insects include the following.

Fire ants, with their bites actually being stings, and appear as raised clusters that contain pus. The bumps are accompanied by welts, followed by blisters.

Mosquito bites can be hard to touch, and they can occur as solo bumps, or several in a cluster. They may or may not turn red.

Fleabites appear in multiple clusters, with three or four red and raised bumps. Around each bump, you will notice a lighter red circle.

Chigger bites result in small, itchy, and red bumps, each one with a bright red dot in the center. They cause very intense itching.

Lice bites occur mostly on the head, but they can also appear in the public area, or on the body. The bites look like red or pink clusters.

Bed bug bites look like red lines made up of dots, which can be flat or raised.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis and eczema are two of the most common chronic skin conditions [6]https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/psoriasis/symptoms-causes/syc-20355840. Both causes red bumps on the body.

Psoriasis can also manifest as scaly patches on the skin. Triggers or risk factors for psoriasis include:

  • Tonsillitis
  • Strep throat
  • Other strep infections
  • Skin injury
  • Medications like beta-blockers and antimalarial drugs
  • High levels of stress

Topical ointments, including corticosteroids are the most common treatment for outbreaks of psoriasis.

But there are also home remedies that can reduce the itchiness, swelling, and other symptoms.

Skin cancer

There are different types of skin cancer [7]https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/how-to-spot-skin-cancer.html. Some of them can appear like red bumps on the skin.

The two most common types of skin cancer include basal cell carcinoma or BCC, and Bowen’s disease.

BCC is the most common type of skin cancer, manifesting as abnormal growths which form in the skin’s basal cell layer, and appear as one small and shiny red bump, but sometimes they can also look like an open sore.

The only way to get rid of BBC is a surgical procedure.

Bowen’s disease is an early form of skin cancer, and appears on the surface of the skin. It resembles a reddish and scaly patch which may ooze, crust over, or itch.

Vasculitis

This condition causes inflammation of the blood vessels, which in turn decreases the flow of blood to the skin.

The result is a wide range of symptoms, including:

  • Weight loss
  • Rashes
  • Night sweats
  • Aches and pains

Home remedies for red bumps on legs

When you notice red bumps on your legs, it is up to you to do something. You can eliminate the itchiness and physical presence of red bumps with natural and home remedies.

Here are some of the most common remedies you can try.

  • Aloe vera gel, be it commercially purchased or squeeze the gel from the plant. Use the sticky substances onto the affected area, massage gently, and the bumps will disappear
  • Apple cider vinegar and vinegar, both can be applied topically. Both vinegars contain acetic acid, but also have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, which can help soothe itchy skin
  • Calamine lotion is a medication that can be used to treat mild itchiness, be it from sunburn, poison oak, insect bites, or any other mild skin condition
  • Witch hazel is another perfect remedy for skin problems like red bumps on your legs, as the natural astringent can help you reduce inflammation, redness, itchiness, and oil
  • Oatmeal, your favorite breakfast grain contains chemicals that reduce itching and inflammation, and also block the action of histamines. Cook some oatmeal, and put it onto the affected area. Or you can use oatmeal as a bath treatment

Symptoms of red bumps on legs

The most logical and obvious symptom of red bumps on your legs are the bumps itself. But there are also other symptoms:

  • The bumps are small, raised, red, and do not burst open
  • Bumps can appear starting from your feet, and all the way up to the thighs
  • The red bumps can burst and crust over at times
  • Bumps are accompanied by itchiness anywhere where the bumps appear
  • You can also notice rashes on your legs, and they can come and go

Quick Breakdown of Red Bumps

If the red bumps …. Then it might be
Do not itch or itch very little Keratosis pilaris
Go away without treatment Folliculitis or hives
Blister and ooze a clear fluid Eczema
Turn white when you press them Hives
Itch a lot Insect bites or eczema
Have a scaly quality Eczema or psoriasis
Are accompanied by night sweats and weight loss Vasculitis
Are shiny and resemble open sores Skin cancer
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