What Causes Red Patches on the Legs?

Medically Reviewed on 10/27/2022
Causes of Red Patches on the Legs
Hives, eczema, and folliculitis are skin conditions that can cause red patches on the legs.

Skin changes are worrisome, especially when the changes are associated with any pain, discomfort, or swelling. Red patches on the legs could arise due to serious conditions, such as compartment syndrome, which require urgent medical attention.

The common causes of red patches on the legs are:

4 most common causes of red patches on the legs

1. Keratosis pilaris

Caused by the blockage of pores on the skin with a protein called keratin. It mostly affects people with dry skin or eczema.

The bumps or patches are generally painless and not itchy.

Treatment of keratosis pilaris includes:

Although it is not a serious condition, you should consult your doctor and talk about the medicated creams or lotions that help loosen dead skin cells. Medicated cream, when applied along with thick moisturizers, could help treat the condition. There is no one treatment. Staying hydrated and moisturized may help you.

Medicated products should contain the following ingredients:

  • Salicylic acid
  • Alpha hydroxy acids
  • Urea

In severe cases, the doctor may recommend laser treatments.

2. Folliculitis

Usually, caused by a bacterial infection, especially staph bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus). Infection may occur due to minor trauma, such as a scratch or after shaving. The infection causes inflammation of hair follicles.

A few risk factors of folliculitis include:

Folliculitis can be itchy and painful, and it may progress to severe forms of infections, including:

Treatment of folliculitis includes:

Folliculitis generally goes away with over-the-counter medications. In some cases, prescription topical and oral medications could be needed, including antibiotics in case of bacterial infection.

3. Eczema

The red patches on the legs could be due to eczema or atopic dermatitis. It is a common skin condition that causes dry, scaly skin. Some of the triggers include:

Treatment of eczema includes:

4. Hives

About 20 to 30 percent of people experience hives or urticaria in their lifetime. Most of the hives are sudden and caused by any allergen, such as food, nickel, or touching a nettle. They could be itchy and cause a burning sensation. They appear as raised bumps and in batches on the body.

They are pink, reddish, or skin-colored itchy bumps. One of the unique symptoms is blanching, which is seen in the lesion (when pressed in the center, the color becomes pale). Bumps usually last not more than 24 hours. One batch disappears, and the other may start or appear in another area. The size of the bumps could be quite tiny to large.

Probable causes of hives include:

  • Any allergens, such as foods, medicines, cosmetics, or additives
  • Underlying health conditions, such as autoimmune conditions or infections
  • Physical factors, such as extremes of temperatures

Treatment of hives includes:

Over-the-counter antihistamines may help relieve the symptoms. In severe cases, prescription medications, including antihistamines and corticosteroids, could be required.


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Medically Reviewed on 10/27/2022
Image Source: Getty image

Hives (Urticaria). https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/picture-of-hives-urticaria

Rash. https://www.pennmedicine.org/for-patients-and-visitors/patient-information/conditions-treated-a-to-z/rash

Keratosis Pilaris. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17758-keratosis-pilaris