Itchy Armpits

Itchy armpits are a common irritation that happens when you have the urge to scratch your skin. Itchy armpits have a variety of causes. Treatment could include taking medications, changing deodorants, managing any underlying conditions or maintaining proper hygiene.

Overview

What are itchy armpits?

Itchy armpits occur when you have the urge to scratch the skin of your underarms (axilla). It’s common for your armpits to itch. The most common reasons why your armpits itch include:

  • Sweat: Your armpits contain a large concentration of sweat glands, which makes it a place where you’ll experience sweating. Lingering sweat mingled with dead skin cells can lead to inflammation and eventually itchy armpits. Your armpits are also one of the warmest parts of your body. The combination of a warm and moist environment makes your underarms a place where bacteria and fungus like to grow. Bacteria and fungi growth cause itchiness.
  • Hair: Armpit hair begins growing during puberty. Another term for armpit hair is axillary hair. Hair growth can irritate your skin and cause it to feel itchy.
  • Frequent contact: The skin of your underarms frequently touches the skin on the side of your body when you have your arms down. When you wear a shirt, the material makes contact with your underarms. Frequent contact between your skin and clothing can irritate and make you feel itchy.

With itchy armpits, you may experience additional symptoms like a rash on your skin or you might not have any other symptoms. Some people experience itchy armpits during certain activities or when they’re resting at night. Everyone’s body is different. If you have itchy armpits and you’re unsure what’s causing your symptom, contact a healthcare provider.

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What are other common symptoms that occur with itchy armpits?

As there are several causes of itchy armpits, you may or may not have additional symptoms like:

  • A rash or dermatitis.
  • Bumps on your skin.
  • Skin discoloration, most often pink to red to purple, depending on your skin type.
  • Pain or a burning sensation.
  • Open wounds from scratching with or without secondary infection.

If you feel a lump in your armpit, it may be a sign of an underlying condition like an infection or cancer. Contact a healthcare provider if you have a lump in your armpit.

Possible Causes

Why are my armpits itchy?

There could be several reasons why you have itchy armpits. Some of the most common causes of itchy armpits include:

  • Razor burns after shaving.
  • Ingrown hairs.
  • Skin irritation to chemicals in your deodorant, soaps or laundry detergent.
  • Reaction to a medication.
  • An underlying medical condition.
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Can deodorant cause itchy armpits?

Yes, deodorants and antiperspirants can cause itchy armpits. You may have an allergy or sensitivity to ingredients in the skincare products that you use regularly. Common ingredients in deodorant that cause itchiness include:

  • Aluminum.
  • Fragrances.
  • Lanolin.
  • Parabens.
  • Propylene glycol.

In addition, these ingredients can be present in some of the soaps, lotions and laundry detergents in your home. Try changing some of the products you use at home or avoid using products with irritating ingredients to resolve itchy armpits.

What conditions cause itchy armpits?

There are several medical conditions that cause the symptom of itchy armpits. Some of the more common conditions that cause itchy armpits include, but aren’t limited to, the following:

Treating or managing the underlying condition that causes itchy armpits will make the symptom reduce or go away.

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What types of cancer cause itchy armpits?

Certain types of cancer can cause itchy armpits, but it’s rare. Two common cancers that cause this symptom include:

Cancer treatments can also cause itchy armpits. This can happen if your body reacts negatively to a drug, your skin cells die off or the treatment causes dry skin. Cancer treatments that can cause itchy armpits include:

If you have itchy armpits as a result of cancer or cancer treatment, talk to your healthcare provider about your symptom and they may recommend a different treatment to alleviate your discomfort.

Are itchy armpits a sign of diabetes?

Diabetes can affect several parts of your body, including your skin. It’s common for people diagnosed with a type of diabetes to experience dry skin. Dry skin could affect your armpits and cause itchy skin. Having a high blood sugar (glucose) level may make the symptom more noticeable.

Care and Treatment

How do I stop my underarms from itching?

A healthcare provider can help you determine the cause of your itchy armpits to offer treatment to relieve the symptom. Treatment options vary based on the cause, but could include:

  • Taking antihistamines, antibiotics, antifungal or immunosuppressant medications.
  • Using topical steroids on your skin.
  • Adjusting the dosage of any medications you currently take, as advised by your provider.
  • Managing or treating any underlying conditions.

What can I do at home to treat itchy armpits?

At home, you can take steps to treat and prevent itchy armpits by:

  • Using proper hygiene by taking a bath or shower daily, especially after sweating. Use soap and water under your arms.
  • Keep your skin hydrated by drinking plenty of water and using a moisturizer on your skin often.
  • Switching skin care products, especially deodorant, to products that are hypoallergenic, unscented or natural.
  • Not shaving until your symptom goes away or changing your razor blade.
  • Avoid wearing clothing made with skin-irritating materials like wool.

When to Call the Doctor

When should itchy armpits be treated by a healthcare provider?

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • The symptom gets worse or the itch doesn’t resolve with treatment.
  • You have a rash that spreads to other parts of your body.
  • You’re unable to sleep.
  • You have swollen lymph nodes (glands) or a lump in your armpit.
  • You have severe pain in your armpits or a fever.
  • A new skin growth or lesion.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Itchy armpits can be an annoying symptom. Most of the time, itchy armpits aren’t a reason to worry, but in rare cases, it can be a sign of an underlying condition. To determine the cause of your itchy armpits, you can try changing the skin care products you use to products designed for sensitive skin. Look for natural, fragrance-free or hypoallergenic products. Meet with a healthcare provider if your symptom doesn’t go away or if it gets worse.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/23/2022.

Learn more about our editorial process.

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