Itchy underarms could be very uncomfortable and embarrassing sometimes. Several possible causes can lead to an underarm itch, ranging from yeast infections to ingrown hairs. Some situations are more complicated than others; several treatments could remedy the condition. Read on to learn more about the causes and treatment of itchy armpits.
What are itchy underarms?
Itchy underarm sometimes referred to as itchy armpits, is a condition where irritation occurs at the underarm region, tempting an individual to scratch it. Underarm itching may cause inflammation, especially when scruffed up. The resulting appearance is bumpy and red or scaly and white underarm. Itchy or irritated underarms could cause armpit rashes, especially when scratched.
An armpit rash is usually temporary and easily treated with an underarm itching home remedy and some over-the-counter medications. However, some rashes are long-lasting, relapsing or severe and may be signs of underlying health conditions. Such severe rashes aren’t normal heat rashes. As such, you require medical attention. Since there are numerous causes of itchy underarms, identifying the root of the problem is crucial to finding the appropriate corresponding treatment.
Why are my armpits itchy and irritated?
There are numerous causes of itchy underarms. Here are some of the reasons why armpits could be itchy and irritated.
Yeast infections are caused by yeast, a fungal organism called Candida. This organism thrives in a warm and moist environment and usually lives on the skin and inside the body. The mouth, throat, vagina, and gut are common body locations for yeast. Some candida species can cause infections, especially when they find their way deep into the body system.
Underarms are not left out as predilection sites of yeast. The moist and warm nature of the armpits is ideal for promoting candida growth. This is why it’s advisable to bathe, wash and clean the underarms properly and regularly. Some of the symptoms of underarm yeast infection include;
- A bright red patch surrounded by small red bumps.
- Itchy underarms
- Warmth more than usual
- A foul odour
Conditions that could put you at risk of underarm itch caused by yeast include; Overweight, having diabetes or having recently used antibiotics.
Contact dermatitis results from body or skin contact with an irritant or allergen, causing an immune response. It takes a few hours for the allergic reaction to manifest following exposure to the allergen. Itchiness is one of the symptoms you’ll notice due to this condition. Some of the other signs include:
- Skin dryness
- Painful, stinging or burning skin.
Contact with clothes washed with harsh chemicals could cause dermatitis and itching. Your underarm can also irritate if you are allergic to certain clothing materials like polyester. Chemicals in skin care products can also contribute to this condition.
Folliculitis is the inflammation of the hair follicles. This condition occurs due to bacterial infiltration into the hair follicle, causing inflammation and pus. The bacteria responsible for this condition could be found on old shaving razors, entering the body through open skin cuts. It’s common to have micro-cuts when shaving the armpits. Bacterial infiltration could occur, causing folliculitis and, consequently, underarm itchiness.
Symptoms of this condition include the following;
- Pink to red bumps around the hair follicles
- Pus-filled bumps
Ingrown hairs are a prevalent cause of skin irritation and itchiness. Besides the underarm, some experience this condition in pubic and beard regions following a shave. Ingrown hair results from hair growing inwards and back into the underarm skin itself. When this situation occurs, the body identifies the hair as a foreign body and reacts by eliciting inflammation.
This inflammation causes painful red or pink bumps on the skin and incites itchiness. Some symptoms include the following;
- Red bumps around hair follicles
- A centralised surfacing hair in the bump.
More often, individuals with thicker or coarse hair experience ingrown hair. Shave in the direction of hair growth and change your razor adequately if you’re prone to ingrown hair.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder where the body’s immune system destroys its healthy skin cells and results in the rapid proliferation of new skin cells. The skin appears scaly, thickened, red, and itchy when this condition occurs. While psoriasis is common in regions like the knees and elbows, it can also be observed in the armpits.
In the armpit location, the psoriasis type is called inverse psoriasis. This type is seen mainly in folded regions of the body. Some of the symptoms you’ll observe include the following;
- Red or pink rash
- Rash with a well-defined border
- Scaly rash
Lymphoma or inflammatory breast cancer
Some underarm itching cases can result from signs of lymphoma or Inflammatory breast cancer. Lymphoma is cancer of the lymphatic system and is characterised by swollen lymph nodes in areas like the neck, armpits and groin. Lymphoma is divided into Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Thirty per cent of individuals with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and fifteen per cent with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are affected by an itching condition called Hodgkin itch or paraneoplastic pruritus. Hodgkin’s itch is typically an itchy armpit without rash. Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare form of breast cancer or itchy armpit cancer. Accompanying symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer include the following:
- Skin changes, including thickening or pitting, give the breast skin a look and feel similar to an orange peel.
- Lop-sided swelling makes one breast look more prominent relative to the other.
- One breast feels heavier and warmer than the other
- A red discolouration covers more than one-third of one of the two breasts.
Other causes of itchy underarms include Ringworm (tinea corporis), scabies, body lice, reaction to drugs/meds, erythrasma, lichen planus, Fox Fordyce disease and Hailey-Hailey disease.
How to stop underarm itches
If you’re wondering how to get your underarms to stop itching, you must remove the causative factors that might lead to it. When you start feeling underarm itches, the first instinct is to stop shaving for some days—letting the skin heal naturally as much as possible would be best to help with the symptoms. Do not use a razor or apply shaving or hair removal creams; these could aggravate the situation.
You can incorporate home remedies; if those don’t work, you should consult a health professional or doctor. The following are possible treatments for underarm itch that doesn’t resolve after a few days;
Antifungal and antibiotics medications
If you notice yeast infection symptoms in your armpit, you can apply over-the-counter antifungal creams, gel or spray to the underarm.
Oral antifungal medications can be used in cases of more severe yeast infections. Clotrimazole (Lotrimin) creams and lotions are OTC antifungal medications that can be applied to superficial skin infections. Other drugs usually require a doctor’s prescription.
Ketoconazole (Nizoral) is another antifungal med that could be used based on a doctor’s prescription. The affected armpit area should be kept clean and dry.
The common bacteria that usually causes folliculitis is staphylococcus aureus. Folliculitis often subsides by itself, thereby stopping the itchiness of the underarms. However, your doctor might administer topical or oral antibiotics to treat the condition under challenging circumstances. Clindamycin is an example of an antibiotic lotion that could be prescribed. Extensive cutaneous involvement may require oral antibiotics such as cephalexin. The best option, however, is to book a consultation session with medical experts like Dr Nina for a prescription before taking any medication.
Topical retinoid and steroid creams
These two remedies are powerful solutions if you notice symptoms of ingrown hairs, folliculitis and psoriasis. Retinoid is a vitamin A derivative that can help cripple skin cells’ growth in psoriasis. Retinol and tretinoin are classes of retinoids that come from Vitamin A. Both compounds can clear hair follicles and free hairs trapped under the skin in the case of ingrown hairs and folliculitis. Your doctor may prescribe retinoid or retinol cream to remedy the situation. Gently dab retinoid cream or gel on the affected area every day before going to bed.
Steroid creams also referred to as topical corticosteroids, are often prescribed with retinoids. Topical corticosteroids reduce skin inflammation and itching and also slow down the production of skin cells in psoriasis patients. You should note topical corticosteroids may have a strong or mild strength. As such, you should use both steroids and retinoids under medical prescription.
- Medical-grade skincare products
Medical-grade skin care products are effective in treating a wide range of skincare conditions. Some of these products rebuild a compromised lipid bilayer skin barrier. These products are better than over-the-counter products. The best products can be prescribed by medical experts like Dr Nina to adequately manage conditions such as dermatitis, which cause itchy underarms. These kinds of products are classified as a blend between pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. You can be sure to get both medicinal and aesthetic benefits.
Purchase medical-grade skin care products only from specialists such as facial sculpting clinics to get the best products available. The Facial sculpting clinic has confirmed that these products contain only active ingredients that have been clinically proven to positively affect the skin. The ingredients properly penetrate the skin’s top layer, ensuring its potency. These products are better and more efficient than over-the-counter products.
- Lymphoma treatment
Treatment for lymphoma may include chemotherapy, medication, radiation therapy and rarely stem-cell transplant. That being said, avoid self-diagnosing. Seek a medical professional’s expert opinion like Dr Nina. A consultation session will evaluate your situation and determine if you have lymphoma and how to treat it.
Some steps in the test procedure to diagnose lymphoma include physical examination, lymph node biopsy for testing, blood test, bone marrow biopsy, and imaging test.
Some home remedies also work to treat itchy underarms. Some of these include the use of essential oils like coconut and lavender oil to soothe irritations and protect against fungal infections. You can use lemon slices as a DIY deodorant and antibacterial to prevent bacterial infections. OTC hydrocortisone creams reduce inflammation and itchy underarms as well.
How to prevent underarm itching
Here are some of the ways to easily prevent underarm itching;
- Change your detergents, deodorant, soap and body care products if they cause an allergic reaction.
- Change razor blades or shaving methods if the current practice causes irritation. Some shaving methods are more compatible with certain skin types than others.
- Make use of fragrance-free products for your armpit.
- Consume more vitamin C or vitamin C supplements to help fight skin infections.
- Bathe properly but less frequently. Bathing very often can dry the skin and expose it to irritants.
Itchy armpits could be a sign of any number of things. Poor hygiene, eczema, prickly heat, allergic reaction, folliculitis, and even factors as simple as wearing a tight bra for women. It’s easy to get itches from shaving, also. Try to pay attention to what triggers your itching to prevent future occurrences.
At night, common factors that could cause itchy armpits usually include:
Allergens from clothing materials in nightwear or pyjamas.
Harsh bathing or skin care products are used at night.
Some individuals even get skin rashes and itchy armpits from bedding materials.
Consider changing some of these household items to avoid itchy underarms.
Itchy underarms are very uncomfortable. But in most cases, if not all, the possible causes have remedies. In some cases, the situation might not be challenging enough to visit a doctor. Consider removing allergens from your niche and maintaining proper hygiene. Also, wear loose clothing and even try sleeping in the nude at night for optimum comfort. If your condition does not change within a few days, consult your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.