What do itchy armpits mean? Why are they so itchy? Itch armpits might mean different things including the effect of shaving, infections (yeast, bacterial or viral infections), cancer, pregnancy, among others. Furthermore, it can be accompanied by rashes or no rashes, redness, swelling, etc.
Itchy armpits refer to the uncomfortable irritation such tingling, prickling or tickling sensation that makes someone want to scratch his or her underarms. This is a common problem that affects male and female (men and women), adults and children or kids (i.e. your baby or toddler can suffer from itchy or irritated armpits too).
When you have this problem, the itchiness could be mild or severe (super or very itchy), could affect you throughout or come only at night and could affect other body parts such as the scalp, ears, breasts, or groin area.
Some of the common symptoms that accompany itching include skin color changes (especially underarm skin redness), bumps, swelling, rash (although you could have itchy armpits with no rash), warmth, scaling, tenderness (painful or sore armpits), crusting, flaking, among others.
Other symptoms that might accompany your itchy rash under armpits include a cough, headache, runny nose, sore throat, sweating, fever and chills, joint pain and stiffness, among others that are cause-related.
There are many reasons why your armpits are so itchy. While looking at what could be the cause this condition, we are going to mention treatments and/or a few remedies that might help relieve the itchiness. Some of the common causes you deserve to know include:
1. After shaving
So, why do my armpits itch after shaving? Is this normal? If you suffer from itchy armpits after shaving, immediately or a day after, the reasons could be the use of dull razors that break or irritate your skin, wrong shaving techniques, inflamed hair follicles (folliculitis) due to shaving and infections i.e. broken skin, sweating, dirty razors, poor personal hygiene, can cause underarm infection.
How to stop it
To stop or prevent itchiness after shaving, don’t shave armpits if they are already inflamed or itchy, use a moisturizer 15 minutes after shaving, use a shaving gel (don’t shave dry armpits), change your shaving razors regularly, do not use an antiperspirant or deodorant immediately after shaving, and try other shaving methods such as waxing or shaving creams, laser hair removal if you suffer from really bad itchiness after shaving.
To soothe your itchiness after shaving, especially if you have really itchy under arms apply hydrocortisone cream (soothes itchiness, redness, and rashes), try selenium sulfide shampoo, wear loose and breathable clothing made from natural fibers. If the itching does not stop, see your dermatologist or doctor for further advice.
2. During pregnancy
Although uncommon, some women suffer from itchy armpits during pregnancy during early pregnancy, late pregnancy or even after pregnancy (or even during breastfeeding). From one of the most popular online community at babycenter.com, a lot can be gathered from experiences shared such as “I have also had incredibly itchy armpits throughout most of my pregnancy” or “I had the same thing off and on a few weeks ago. It usually happened at night” [community.babycenter.com]
This can be attributed to hormonal changes i.e. according to Dr. Morris Westfried a Dermatology “hormones changes in liver contribute to itching… several rashes are associated with pregnancy, Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP), impetigo herpetiformis, as well as eczema which can worsen in pregnancy” [healthtap.com].
Conditions such as impetigo and eczema can lead to itchy underarms during pregnancy. Furthermore, most women are vulnerable to yeast infections which can also cause armpit itch. Just like many others, one lady notes on the baby center community, “I ended up getting a yeast infection under my arm due to hormones and sweating” [community.babycenter.com].
Another reason for reasons could be cancer including breast cancer and lymphoma. However, you should be least worried that it could be due to cancer because it is very unlikely (could be not cancer). However, the possibility cannot be ruled out completely.
Breast cancer, especially the inflammatory breast cancer can also a cause of not only an itchy breast but also an itchy underarm area or an itchy patch near your armpit i.e. “itching can be a sign of breast cancer” [cancerresearchuk.org]. Since a “tail of breast tissue extends up into the armpit” [patient.info], you are likely to end up with an itchiness.
If inflammatory breast cancer is behind your armpit itching, you will have itching armpits cancer symptoms such as swollen, sore, red and warm breasts, “the skin may appear pitted like an orange peel, and n1pple changes such as inversion, flattening, or dimpling may occur” [nationalbreastcancer.org].
Finally, lymphoma, a type of cancer that affects lymphocytes found in lymph nodes. “Lymphoma can sometimes cause an itchy rash… reddish or purple scaly areas…in skin folds” [healthline.com] including on your armpits.
Going on with causes, psoriasis is another possible cause i.e. “psoriasis causes cells to build up rapidly on the surface of the skin. The extra skin cells form thick, silvery scales and itchy, dry, red patches that are sometimes painful” [mayoclinic.org]. Although it can affect your legs, arms, back, scalp, etc. it commonly affects underarms.
Treatment of when it is due to psoriasis include light therapy, oral medication (e.g. biologics), or use of steroid creams. This treatment will help relieve the various symptoms such as dry cracked skin, itching, irritated or inflamed underarms.
5. Keratosis Pilaris
This is a condition that is caused by excess keratin formation that results in pimple-like bumps or rough sandpaper-like patches on your skin including button, face, leg, and armpit areas. Other symptoms include dry rough skin, irritated armpits, as well as inflamed or itchy underarms. The problem resolves on its own but home remedies and some over the counter medications can minimize symptoms and speed up recovery.
6. Contact dermatitis or allergic reaction
Coming in contact with some allergens such as poison ivy, laundry detergents, some soaps, household chemicals, among other allergens can cause inflamed or itching underarms accompanied with redness, swelling, tenderness, warmth, and soreness among other symptoms. Avoid contact with allergens, use antihistamines to relieve allergy symptoms or hydrocortisone cream.
7. Candida infection (candidiasis)
Yeast or Candida infection is a common cause of itchy armpits and groin areas as well as under breasts, mouth, or any other skin folds. This is more common in people who have compromised immunity such as those with HIV STD, cancer, blood disorders, diabetic or undergoing some treatments such as corticosteroid therapy or chemotherapy.
You will have a red rash that is itchy and/or swollen. Treatment is using antifungal medications as well as OTC antifungal creams. Keep your underarms dry using loose breathable clothing, try anti-chafing powders and cut down weight if you are obese.
8. Hidradenitis suppurativaThis is the inflammation of apocrine glands due to clogging and cysts formation after infection by Staphylococcus aureus common in under breast area, groin and underarms. After a few days or hours, the cysts open, drain yellow fluid causing inflammation and scarring.
Treatment is by antibiotics, anti-inflammatory injections or surgical cysts drainage. To prevent it, keep good underarm hygiene, do not put on tight clothing, lose weight, and avoid shaving your underarms.
9. Fox-Fordyce Disease
Affects mainly young women aged 13 to 35 years but can affect even anyone. It is characterized by small itchy bumps due to clogged sweat glands especially in underarm and groin areas. It can be treated as hidradenitis suppurativa.
10. Poor hygiene
When sweat and dirt mixed together, they can form a perfect breeding ground for bacteria that is normally found on your skin. This could result in underarm itch.
11. Excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis)
Encourages overgrowth of bacteria and other microbes as it provides a moist and damp environment. These microbes and bacteria overgrowth can irritate underarms and make them itchy. Obesity, use of new drugs, change in environmental condition and sports persons are likely to have excessive sweating.
To deal with this problem the use of aluminum chloride hexahydrate solution or gel 10-25%, systematic, hormonal treatments are recommended besides antiperspirants, soaps surgical options, or low level electrical impulse therapy to reduce excessive sweating.
12. Dry itchy armpits or xerosis
Another possible cause of armpit itch is skin dryness. When you have a dry underarm skin, you might itch with no rash at all. Some symptoms you might have include scaling, peeling, flaking, and mild to severe itch among others such as fine lines and wrinkles.
13. Other causes
Besides the above, other reasons why you get underarm itch include armpit folliculitis (inflamed hair follicles when they get infected by bacteria), tinea axillaris (armpit ringworms), Miliaria Rubra, insect bites, irritated or inflamed underarm glands, heat rash, sweat rash, cellulitis, enlarged lymph nodes, some deodorants and antiperspirants, pinworm, scabies, stress, intertrigo, among others.
Furthermore, any other disorder that makes your skin to itch can also cause your armpit itch. Kidney and liver disease, medication side effects, intestinal or skin parasites, internal cancer, senile pruritus or allergies to bra material (especially rubber, latex or nickel) among others can also be responsible for this problem.
Whereas most armpit itchiness is accompanied by a kind of rash, it is possible to have itchy underarms with no rash. There might be a rash but not visible with naked eyes, especially when it is very mild. So, what causes itchiness with no rash?
If you do not have any rash, some of the common causes of itchy armpits or groin with no rash include mild allergies (to deodorants, antiperspirants and other allergens), axillary hyperhidrosis i.e. “excessive sweating of the armpits (known as axillary hyperhidrosis) can cause itchy skin without rashes” [suite.io], lymphoma cancer type i.e. “cancer will cause the skin to become itchy without a rash, weight loss, fever, swollen lymph nodes, and fatigue” [newhealthguide.org], dry skin, scabies, among other causes.
To treat it, treatment will depend on the cause. Since most cases are due to mild allergic reactions, antihistamines, 1% cortisone creams and Claritin 10 mg tablet might be of much help. The various home remedies will also be helpful in reliving an itchiness without rash.
We have come across many people posing this question ‘why do my underarms itch at night.’ This encouraged us to do some research and know why you might have very or really itchy underarms at night. Most people correlated it with night sweats, early pregnancy, armpit fungus infections, poorly conditioned bedroom, among other factors.
When with a rash, it can be due to a number of problems that include “psoriasis, eczema, lymphoma (a cancer type that affects lymph nodes), ringworms, contact dermatitis, deodorant rashes, HIV rashes, fungal or yeast infections, folliculitis, among others” [bestcures.org]
Each of the itchy rashes under armpits has its own treatment. To alleviate symptoms of the itchy rash in armpit, try anti-inflammatory medication, antihistamines, creams such as menthol, phenol camphor, pramoxine, diphenhydramine, benzocaine” [bestcures.org] try home remedies we will discuss later as well as apple cider vinegar, aloe vera, fruit peels, peppermint or basil leave pastes, cold bath, creams with hydrocortisone, etc.
Red and itchy
Red itchy underarms, especially with rashes, can be due to shaving, candida or yeast, fungal infection, folliculitis, disseminated granuloma annulare, HIV, contact dermatitis, some deodorant, shingles, lymphoma, tinea axillaris, eczema, etc. I hope you now know why your armpits may be so itchy and red.
Really or very itchy
If you have extremely itchy armpits, to the point of making you unable to carry on your daily routine tasks, it is advisable to see a dermatologist or a doctor for diagnosis and treatment because really or very itchy underarms could be a symptom of something serious that needs medical attention.
So, your armpits are super itchy or armpits that itch so bad, especially due to contact dermatitis or anaphylactic shock, accompanied with lip or face swelling, difficulties in breathing, ensure you get emergency treatment.
Finally, do not rule out neurodermatitis since it can also cause a severe itchiness of skin including the one on your armpits. Common causes include medications such as excessive sweating at night.
How to stop or how to get rid of the itchiness
To stop armpits that are itchy, you need to treat the underlying cause. While looking at some of the causes, we mentioned various ways on how you can get rid of itchy armpits due to that specific cause. Some of the general treatments you should give a try include:
- Selenium sulfide shampoo – Soothes irritated underarms, reduces inflammation and itchiness
- Lidocaine –If you have really bad armpit itchiness (intense), you can get a prescription for lidocaine creams, injections or patches. It causes numbness and gives a relief to itchiness.
Besides the above treatment options, you can try the various home remedies to relieve armpit itch symptoms. Popular remedies include:
- Colloidal oatmeal- It has soothing properties, can easy irritation and itchiness. Add it to warm or cool water, apply it on your armpits using a washcloth for about 20 minutes or as soon as the itchiness or burning feeling goes away.
- Cold compress – numbs and soothes itchy or irritated armpit. You can use ice packs, ice wrapped in a washcloth or put it in your refrigerator to make it cold.
- Calamine lotion – good for soothing itchiness. Clean your underarms to ensure they are oil free, apply the lotion and let it dry before covering your underarms. Pairing it with an antihistamine is a good idea.
- Witch hazel – Just like calamine lotion, this is an over the counter home remedy which you can apply using a cotton ball. However, if your armpits ooze, your skin is red or you have an exposed rash, avoid witch hazel.
- Tea tree oil, Aloe vera, vitamin E oil – Apply them to help soothe and reduce inflammation.
Wear loose clothing made from natural fibers that can absorb sweat easily, use unscented or hypoallergenic washing detergents, consume foods rich in vitamin C and vitamin E oil ( good for healthy skin and rash healing and reduces armpit discoloration), bathe regularly, try baking soda to dry underarms and take baths regularly.
References and sources