Causes and treatment of pimples on the legs

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Pimples or a pimple-like rash may develop, even on the legs, on any part of the body.

Pimples frequently appear as one or more bumps on the skin that are red or white, possibly itchy or painful. They form a pink-red rash on the adjacent skin or produce pus in some cases. They may also make a person feel nervous, revealing their legs in front of others.

Pimples on the legs are still often not a significant or long-lasting problem. The causes are not of substantial concern in most cases. A person that develops a pimple on the leg often can treat it at home, using over-the-counter (OTC) medications and other home remedies.

Causes

Popular causes of legs with small bumps or pimples include:

Folliculitis

Folliculitis
Folliculitis, an inflammation of the hair follicles, is a common cause of pimples on the legs.

Folliculitis is hair follicle inflammation. This may be from an infection of bacteria or fungi that causes the hair follicles to become inflamed or blocked. Red bumps that can appear as a rash are signs of folliculitis.

The most common factors that pose a risk of folliculitis development include:

  • tight clothing
  • heat and sweat
  • shaving

Folliculitis can be developed by almost anyone. However some people may be more at risk of developing folliculitis than others. These risk factors include:

  • being overweight
  • frequent use of public or private hot tubs
  • eczema
  • injuries to the skin
  • underlying health conditions that reduce the body’s ability to fight infection

Folliculitis can clear up on its own in most situations, and does not pose a significant threat. However it could develop into a more severe infection or cause boils to form if it does not clear up.

Boils are huge, pus-filled bumps usually caused by the bacterial infection of Staphylococcus.

An individual should seek medical attention as soon as possible if any skin infection gets worse.

Keratosis pilaris

Another prevalent skin disorder that causes small red bumps to appear on the skin is Keratosis pilaris. Keratosis pilaris can itch, feel dry, or feel tough to touch, similar to folliculitis.

Keratosis pilaris is estimated by the American Academy of Dermatology to be encountered by about 40 percent of all adults and up to 50-80 percent of adolescents.

Keratosis pilaris happens when the skin’s pores are clogged by a protein called keratin and dead skin. Keratin is found in the nails, hair and skin. Keratosis pilaris is more likely to occur in people with eczema or dry skin, although it may be developed by anyone.

While keratosis pilaris is a harmless condition, some individuals may want to talk about treatment with their doctor. In certain cases to help ease the symptoms, doctors may prescribe moisturizing ointments or creams.

Hives

Insect bites can trigger hives.
Insect bites can trigger hives.

Itchy red or skin-toned welts that are slightly raised above the rest of the skin are described as hives. They turn white when pressed in the middle. On the legs and almost anywhere else on the body, hives can appear.

Due to their similar appearance, some individuals can mistake hives for a pimple on their leg.

Around 20 percent of people will experience hives at some point in their lifetime, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Hives may occur at any age, but tend to be associated with conditions underlying them, such as:

Also, there are several potential triggers that can cause hives. These may include:

  • insect bites
  • reaction to medications
  • pollen
  • plants
  • foods
  • cold/heat
  • latex

Unless other symptoms arise with them, hives are also not a significant cause for concern.

Insect bites, which are sometimes itchy but not serious, are one of the most common causes.

Eczema

A common skin disorder is eczema, which is also called atopic dermatitis, where itchy patches appear along with red bumps. Pimple-like blisters that ooze a clear liquid can form these patches, or they could be dry and scaly.

An individual with eczema tends to go through periods, also referred to as flares, where rashes occur. The skin can return to normal between flares.

Eczema flares have several possible causes. This may include:

  • contact with certain fabrics, such as wool
  • various cleaning products
  • perfumes or cosmetics
  • heat and sweat
  • soaps
  • detergents
  • stress

Scientists are also not certain of the causes of eczema. They have however, begun to take notice of such trends in the occurrence of eczema. Certain findings include:

  • It is more common in cities with higher pollution levels and cooler temperatures.
  • A child born to an older woman is more likely to develop eczema.
  • Eczema tends to run in families.
  • Females are slightly more likely to get eczema than males.
  • There appears to be a connection between eczema and the person or their family having seasonal allergies.

Approximately 90% of eczema cases are diagnosed before the fifth birthday of a child, and the condition is much less likely to start when a person is an adult, the American Academy of Dermatology suggests. However, if they had eczema as a child, an adult has around a 50 percent risk of still having some signs as they age.

Treatment

Remedies for pimples or bumps on the legs will depend on the cause source.

Some of the common remedies that are used depending on the cause of the pimples are below.

Folliculitis

Using an electric razor can help prevent leg pimples.
Using an electric razor can help prevent leg pimples.

Usually, folliculitis doesn’t require treatment. Within a couple of days, it should clear on its own. If it advances to a more advanced form, however, or doesn’t go away, a person should see a doctor.

For folliculitis due to shaving, avoidance is often the best treatment. An individual can help with folliculitis prevention by:

  • using an electric razor rather than a disposable razor
  • using extra shaving cream or soap to lessen skin irritation
  • avoiding shaving for a set period of time after a folliculitis episode

Shaving products are available for purchase online, including electric razors and shaving cream.

Treatment of folliculitis depends on what causes it to occur. A doctor may suggest:

  • moisturizers that are oil-free
  • topical steroids
  • topical or oral antibiotic therapy
  • antifungal therapy

Keratosis pilaris

It is typically not necessary for doctors to treat leg bumps caused by keratosis pilaris. In some cases a person may wish to talk to their doctor about medicated moisturizing creams if the condition does not clear on its own.

In more serious cases, a doctor can discuss laser therapy as an alternative.

Hives

Treatment for the majority of hives begins with prevention. Insect bites usually cause hives, which means using repellants and restricting exposed skin to prevent bites from occurring outdoors.

If the hives are followed by other symptoms, a person should seek medical attention. Additional concerns, such as a particular allergy or intolerance, that a doctor will need to evaluate and treat may arise.

Eczema

When treating eczema, a physician may recommend different treatment options. Some treatments that are typical include:

  • antihistamines
  • antibiotics
  • corticosteroids

A doctor may be able to recommend techniques to prevent possible causes.

People with eczema should also be mindful of their increased sensitivity to skin infections, and people with chickenpox or cold sores should be avoided. Herpes simplex virus exposure can lead to eczema herpeticum, which is a serious, rapidly spreading infection.

Outlook

Small red bumps on the legs are not a big cause for alarm in most situations. An individual should seek medical attention if they are not sure of the source of the pimples. As this will need medical attention, they should also check for signs of infection. Signs of infection to watch for include:

  • worsening rash
  • fever
  • pain
  • red streaks coming from the pimples
  • blisters
  • swelling around the pimples

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