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Anxiety and Stress Disorders

Itchy Legs

05/13/2008

Question:

I am a 41 year old man and recently I have been getting really itchy legs at night with no sign of any bites or rashes, I am under alot of stress at the moment could that be it?

Answer:

Stress can certainly exacerbate many physical symptoms, including skin irritation.  You might try adopting some stress reducing techniques, which I have mentioned in previous answers:

First, become aware of your own reactions to stress.  While your obvious symptom may be itching perhaps there are smaller things that are happening sooner that you can use as cues to yourself -- jaw clenching, tight fists, moving faster, angry thoughts, etc.

Recognize and accept your limits -- especially as to what you can change and what you cannot.  You cannot change what your others do or say, you can only change your reaction.  Accepting this is a first step towards not getting stressed over it.

Keep yourself healthy by exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet daily and getting plenty of sleep at night.  Avoiding excess alcohol, caffeine and any tobacco or nicotine products is also important.

Set realistic goals and priorities -- both for your personal interactions and your work/home situation.  Sometimes work frustrations spill over into the home situation, where the symptoms and tensions are finally released.

Talk with someone you can trust about your worries and problems.  This may be a friend, family member, religious or spiritual leader or a paid professional, like a counselor or a therapist.  Having this support is important.

Practice relaxation techniques.  This can be a regular practice of yoga, meditation or other methods, or can just be slow, regular breathing and counting to 10 during times of tenseness or stress.

In addition, don't forget about simple skin hygiene -- decrease the use of hot water and soap, which can be drying to the skin.  Use moisture lotions liberally, and try to avoid scratching, as the skin damage from vigorous scratching can cause even more skin problems.

If your problem doesn't get better trying these simple suggestions, then I recommend you see your primary care physician for an evaluation.

Good Luck.

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Response by:

Nancy   Elder, MD Nancy Elder, MD
Associate Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati