Rashes affecting the lower legs

Author: Dr Amanda Oakley MBChB FRACP, Dept of Dermatology Waikato Hospital. Reviewed and revised, May 2014.


Most often, a rash affecting the lower legs is a type of dermatitis. The terms ‘dermatitis’ and ‘eczema’ are often used interchangeably. Acute dermatitis presents as red, swollen and blistered plaques. Chronic dermatitis accompanied by rubbing and scratching results in darkened (hyperpigmented), and thickened (lichenified) plaques.

There are several different types of lower leg dermatitis, which is common at all ages.

Atopic dermatitis
Discoid eczema
Varicose eczema
Gravitational dermatitis
Contact dermatitis
Lichen simplex
Prurigo nodularis

Scaly rashes of the lower legs

Scaly conditions affecting the lower legs include:

Lichen planus
Skin cancers

Infections favouring the lower legs

Tinea corporis

Redness of the lower legs

Other red or purplish conditions favouring the lower legs include:

Pretibial myxoedema
Necrobiosis lipoidica

Lower leg ulcers

Detailed descriptions of leg ulcers ...

Leg ulcers

Management of lower leg rashes

Management depends on making a correct diagnosis. General advice should include:

Avoid topical antibiotics, topical antihistamines and multi-ingredient fragranced or herb-containing emollients because of the risk of provoking contact allergy.

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