What causes armpits to itch? Can itching underarms be a serious issue like cancer? Rarely. The most common reasons why people get this problem is due to fungal infections and rashes. In many cases, the underarm itch will be accompanied by a rash. However, when it happens in absence of or with no rash can be annoying. Read on and get to know causes of itchy underarms including during pregnancy period or at night.
In our explanations, we shall use the term axillary which simply means anything related to the underarm area. Do not be confused by the use of the term.
Causes and symptoms
This area will focus on reasons why armpits become itchy. In the course of the discussion, we shall highlight accompanying symptoms to help you get an insightful grip on what causes armpits to itch and irritation?
One of the most common causes of itchy underarms is due to yeast infection. This yeast infection is greatly brought about by an overgrowth of (fungus) Candida albicans species which is found free-living on human skin.
The structural anatomy including the moist, warm and dark nature conditions of the skin under armpits particularly provides a more favorable spot for the fungus to thrive. Other commonly affected areas affected include the groin and mouth. Under these conditions, the excessively growing fungus can cause peeling of skin in armpits hence itching. Other health risks of yeast infection include diabetes, suppressed immunity, HIV infections, and overweight or obesity.
Symptoms to expect include redness, cracking of skin, soreness, scaling and flaking, purple or reddish patches, a rash and some white substances on the area.
Itchy armpits after shaving
Shaving is another common cause of itchy bumps under the armpit. A poor method of shaving or hair removal will cause irritation due to damage to the skin, due to scratching or cuts from razor blades to be precise. Itching can also be aggravated by sweating, use of antiperspirant sprays and poor hygiene at the individual level. These bumps formed after shaving are usually small in size and cause slight itching which may last up to a few hours (a day or two).
If you continue to scratch to relieve itchiness, it can easily result in infections. In fact, the hair follicles get more irritated and this can lead to swelling or serious itching. Neither should you try deodorants – deodorant makes armpits itch. In that case, you need to try other hair removal techniques or seek medication urgently.
Another cause of itching under armpits is due to psoriasis. This is an “autoimmune condition that causes red plaques to form on one’s skin.” [enkivillage.com]
A type of psoriasis which affects the armpits and groin is known as inverse psoriasis or intertriginous psoriasis. In the case of the underarms, inverse psoriasis is attributed to sweating and rubbing which often occurs between skin folds in the area hence the name ‘intertriginous’. Other areas of its occurrence include under the breasts. People who are overweight are more victimized.
Symptoms of this type of psoriasis (inverse) depend on what part of the body is affected but its signs tend to appear shiny and smooth mainly on the skin under armpits. (Refer to the picture beside). Unlike plaque psoriasis, there is no scale formation due to moist conditions under your arms.
Due to lymph nodes or Axillary lymphadenopathy
Axillary lymphadenopathy refers to the swelling of the lymph nodes under the armpits. Basically, “lymphadenopathy or adenopathy is a disease of the lymph nodes, in which they are abnormal in size, number, or consistency.” [en.wikipedia.org]
What causes Axillary lymphadenopathy as an itching problem in armpits? They include:
- Cat scratch fever,
- Rheumatoid arthritis,
Most cases of this condition are marked by mild itching symptoms and at times no symptoms may be shown at all. Since axillary lymph nodes can be felt by applying pressure, you can closely monitor them. If you realize they are becoming very itchy and swollen much please see your health specialist or dermatologist for removal because they can make you be self-curious.
However, they should not be confused with itchy bumps under armpits but, instances of the swollen nodes becoming malignant or cancerous are less common. Furthermore, statistics indicate that less than 1 percent are affected by this condition.
As opposed to normal sweating, axillary hyperhidrosis is a condition that brings about “abnormal” excessive sweating underarms. According to research by dermatologists, excessive sweating is due to overstimulation of sweat glands.
Now, a medical explanation as to why you may end up itching your armpits is because too much sweating increases the possibility of fungal infection on underarms since Candida albicans is adapted to grow faster in warm and moist conditions.
Hidradenitis suppurativa, HS
Moving on, hidradenitis suppurativa or HS is a disease associated with sweat glands. It is known to trigger “inflammation of apocrine glands due to clogging and cysts formation after infection by Staphylococcus aureus.” [helpfulguides.com] but its causes still remain not well known.
Areas commonly affected by this disease include under arms, on the groin, and under breasts. According to healthyarms.net, one of the symptoms of HS is underarm itching. The cysts formed are characterized by clustering but, some may enlarge and cause pain and tenderness in the skin underarms.
The good thing is that hidradenitis suppurativa is treatable. Patients can be treated using antibiotics or anti-inflammatory injections. Depending on the extent to which the cysts enlarge, drainage or surgery can be necessary.
Axillary dermatitis – contact, allergic & atopic
There are a number of cases that lead to dermatitis which can affect the armpit area. They include contact dermatitis, allergic and atopic dermatitis – all of which are sources of irritation on the skin.
Both contact and allergic dermatitis involve some kind of irritation or skin reactions after a direct contact with an allergic triggering substance such as deodorants. Certain deodorants composed of aluminum, alcohol, and fragrances make armpits itch. Usually, regularly using deodorants or even antiperspirants leads to clogging of the sweat glands. Individuals may complain of redness or red armpits from deodorant sprays.
The most effective way to deal with axillary dermatitis is to avoid allergens or stop using deodorants.
Intertrigo is another common itchy skin rash which occurs in areas with folds like under the armpit and the groin. Major risk factors behind its occurrence are high humidity, being overweight and practicing poor hygiene.
- Itchy underarms and lower abdomen including the groin area,
- Redness on the skin especially with itching,
- Crusty skin which may form cracks,
- Foul smelling discharge in case of an infection,
Miliaria rubra or heat rash – with possible red bumps,
Do you often get this problem after exposure to hot and humid environments which you are not used to? Miliaria rubra is a skin rash which can cause red bumps under one or both armpits.
Apart from what we have gone through, there are other causes and factors possibly leading to this problem. They comprise
- Tinea axillaris
- Axillary folliculitis,
- Syringoma (sweat duct tumors),
- Insect bites,
- Certain medicines.
Itchy red underarm rash causes
I have a rash under my armpit that makes me itch a lot. What causes it? Your armpit is one of the areas susceptible to rashes and itching. According to Healthline, armpit rashes can either be bumpy and red or scaly and white. The process of determining its causes is very important in determining how to treat it.
The common causes of a red itchy underarm rash include the following yeast infection, axillary dermatitis, intertrigo, and miliaria rubra. Conditions such as inverse psoriasis can and infected ingrown hairs in your armpits can lead to redness but not a rash,
Armpit rash treatment or cure tips
Knowing what causes rashes in the armpit is important as far as you want to get rid it. How is underarm rash treated?
Check on hygiene
Step up your personal hygiene because candida species can make it worse if it is not controlled perfectly.
Over The Counter antifungal treatments
“Unlike other underarm rashes, candida rashes are best treated by an antifungal cream,” [healthline.com]. Try some of the tropical antifungal creams that contain clotrimazole, nystatin, or ketoconazole are generally good for controlling the fungi.
Apply a reliever
This form of treatment is quite useful because it helps to reduce irritation and inflammation. They include hydrocortisone and calamine solutions.
Ant chafing powders
As a remedy for pain and irritation caused by rubbing skin folds, obese individuals or anyone can reduce discomfort in armpits by sprinkling chafing powder.
Resist an attempt to scratch because this may only worsen irritation and turn the rash into a complex thing. Instead of scratching, go for alternatives to reduce itching and soothe irritation. Make use of home remedies such as applying lavender, coconut or tea tree oil or ice cubes wrapped in cloth.
Relaxation for stress management
You also need to learn relaxation techniques as part of managing stress. Here, stress can be looked at as an aggravating factor of axillary dermatitis and other types of skin rashes.
NOTE: failure to treat armpit rashes poses a higher risk of serious fungal or bacterial infections.
Itchy armpits at night
Have you itchy armpits at night? There is an increased urge to itch your armpits during the night even if there is no rash. Some health sources attribute it to infrequent showering. So when you have itchy armpits at night after a shower that is one of the possibilities.
Secondly, a change in temperature can also trigger an underarm itch. Some individuals who move to new areas with warm temperatures occasionally encounter this problem before they get adopted.
Sometimes your body may react to fabrics of new pajamas and bed sheets. Try to change them together with the laundry detergent you are used to. Alternatively, consider a consultation with your dermatologist over the same.
Is it a cancer symptom?
Can underarm itching be a sign of cancer? Unless it is lymphoma, this can rarely be a sign of cancer. Itchy breasts are associated with inflammatory breast cancer (IBC). IBC is a rare form of breast cancer in which “cancer cells block lymph vessels in the skin of the breast.” [cancer.gov]. In fact, inflammatory breast cancer will cause warmth and be itching your breasts or nipples.
On the other hand, breast cancer can spread to the lymph nodes. “However, since breast tissue can extend up into your armpit, an armpit lump could actually be breast cancer” [healthcentral.com]. However, itching alone is unlikely cancer sign.
When without or no rash
Sometimes signs of itching in armpits can come in absence of any kind of rash. What causes underarm itching with no rash or without rashes?
- Allergic reactions to deodorants or antiperspirants,
- Axillary folliculitis
- Axillary hyperhidrosis also referred to as excessive sweating underarms,
Itchy armpits and groin
From the above discussion, it can be concluded that yeast infections and psoriasis including inverse psoriasis are responsible for itchy armpits and groin. Fungal infection on the groin area is medically referred to as tinea cruris. What other axillary conditions or rash affect both the groin?
- Hidradenitis suppurativa,
- Jock itch which is a pink or red rash.
During pregnancy, early or late pregnancy
I’m pregnant and my armpits itch. Is it my hormones or I have a different problem? There are many things which occur during the early pregnancy stages as well as in the late pregnancy and during breastfeeding.
To begin, itchy rashes are a common phenomenon during pregnancy. Causes of these rashes include candida infections, scabies, contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis (eczema), herpes gestations, etc. During the early pregnancy, women who exhibit symptoms of atopic dermatitis may worsen or stay the same.
Mild itch without rash is considered normal within the 1st trimester (3months). However, pregnant women should seek medical advice if itching becomes severe or worse after this period and develop itchy sore armpits (late pregnancy).
Papular dermatitis of pregnancy
Papular dermatitis of pregnancy or (prurigo of pregnancy) presents as “scattered itchy/scratched papules at any stage of pregnancy.” [dermnetnz.org]. It is critical to consider consultation from your clinical doctor if you want to treat prurigo. Why? Some treatments are considered unsafe for pregnant women and their pregnancy.
Treatment or cures
Treating itchy armpits is a painful experience owing to the sensitivity in this part but it is easy if well approached in good time.
Dermatological processes also provide a great ground in determining the possible causes and would recommend an appropriate cure for specific conditions such as during pregnancy, cancer-related symptoms and reported cases of side effects of topical medicines.
Nevertheless, if at any cost the underlying cause is treated then clearing the symptoms of itchy armpits can be effective. How are itchy armpits
Some topical treatments are very effective in dealing with itching especially is the symptoms associated are mild. These include topical steroid creams and ointments.
One of the treatment options is the use of steroids. These are commonly used to in treating itchy armpits due to psoriasis by reducing inflammations. Here are a few examples of medications derived from brands.
These creams come if varied strengths. Remember that overuse of steroids come with side effects such as stretch marks, reddening in the skin, thinning and skin bruising, etc. So, it is considered worthy to consult your dermatologist on how to safely apply and for how long you are expected to use them.
There are two ways of administering topical antifungal medications namely orally and applying creams.
This is a good symptom reliever for itching or even when with small bumps on armpit after shaving. It also helps in preventing redness. Hydrocortisone is also quite effective as a cure for miliaria rubra and inverse psoriasis.
home remedies and tips
The following are some simple tips which will ensure you avoid cases of triggering itching under your arms while taking care of other factors contributing the itchiness.
- The first thing that you cannot ignore is to practice good or standard hygiene. This is a crucially important remedy for anyone who suffers from axillary hyperhidrosis or is overweight marked by prominent skin folds. Good hygiene also discourages fungal infections (candida).
- Avoid clothing that is too tight around your arms and the groin area to minimize rubbing the skin. Additionally, resist from fabric softeners especially when you already have rashes or are suffering from hidradenitis suppurativa. Loose (clothes) garments made from soft natural fabrics are the preferably good selection.
- Thirdly, if you see bumps appearing after shaving your underarm hair, it is either you do it incorrectly or use inappropriate shaving tools. To solve this problem is by either stopping to shave in order to determine whether shaving is the cause or use an alternative best.
- When you suddenly develop underarm itch (in one or both armpits) from deodorants, any attempt to stop spraying deodorants and antiperspirants will be a good way to go.
- Finally, if you have a history of food allergens try to avoid them and other allergens.
If you have a severe and horrible itching whether it is accompanied by a rash or no rash (i.e. without any symptoms) seek dermatological clinics for proper and evaluative skin diagnosis.
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