October 12, 2021: Autumn itch? Winter scratching?

Why are my feet/legs itching with the change of weather?

There seems to have been little time elapsed between the hot sunny days of the summer and the leaves changing colour on the trees and changes in the weather means changes on what we see in clinic.

As Podiatrists, some of the conditions we see on the feet and lower legs are seasonal and related to exposure to too much or too little sunlight.

For example, too much sun leads to sunburn on the tops of exposed feet in a heat wave.

As we move through Autumn and into winter, when we are covering up and going back inside, there is one skin condition that becomes more common, and it is frequently (but not always) betrayed by itching and is commonly known as ‘the winter itch’.

It is a form of eczema.

Asteatotic Eczema

Eczema is commonplace, with numerous sub-types, and autumn and winter living can aggravate some of these. The ‘winter itch’ is known as Asteatotic eczema, also known as eczema craquele or xerotic eczema.

As the temperature outside falls, we cover-up and turn the heating on and up. As a result, skin dries out and can lead to the forming of discrete dry, scaly patches on the top of the foot and on the lower legs. It can also appear on the arms.

What does I look like?

The appearance varies from person to person.

When it begins, it can appear as a dry with a fine scale, with a criss-cross or crazy paving appearance and can easily be confused with an athlete’s foot or tinea infection.

When well-developed it can be similar to the dried mud cracking in the bottom of an empty pond in the heat of summer. As the eczema develops and enlarges, it is characterised by oval or circular lesions (nummular), an can appear redder, even with weeping and crusting.

Why has it developed?

Asteatotic eczema is more common in the elderly as the skin doesn’t produce enough natural moisturizing factors leading to it drying out, but can be found at any age. There are a number of aggravating factors including

  • Age
  • Illness
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Menopause
  • Side effects of medication
  • Zinc deficiency
  • Too much bathing/showering and drying

Should it be treated?

In short – yes. Definitely.

With this form of eczema, the skin isn’t able to serve one of it’s primary functions – as a barrier offering protection. If left untreated it can allow a gradual breakdown of the skin leading to larger areas being involved and the development of more serious conditions and sensitivity.

How do we treat it?

This is surprisingly simple but effective.

  • Reduce the frequency, length and temperature of baths/showers
  • Avoid standard soaps/detergents/shower gels as they will dry the skin
  • Thoroughly rinse any soap residue from the legs and feet before drying
  • Use soap substitutes such as E45 Wash Cream & QV Gentle Wash – but remember – it will make your shower/bath more slippery, so take care.
  • Dry by ‘dabbing’ not ‘rubbing’
  • Keep the skin at an even temperature
  • Cream, cream, cream – emollients are widely available with urea-based products being particularly useful. If in doubt, ask your GP or practice nurse

How can you be sure?

The first step is to confirm what is causing your symptoms. It is all too common to self diagnose through what you read on the internet. If you want to know for sure, then you need to seek the advice of an appropriate health care professional. Visit your local Podiatrist, GP, nurse practitioner or dermatologist.

If you would like more information or to make an appointment with one of our Podiatrists, call us on 01628 773588 or email