Armpit Rashes: What They Mean and How To Treat Them

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Armpits are one of the most common places to find a rash, but they’re rarely a cause for real alarm. Since the armpit is in a fold of skin, bacteria, yeasts, and other microorganisms can be trapped in that area and cause a rash or irritation. Here are a few of the most common armpit rashes, what they can mean, and how to treat them.

The Most Common Armpit Rashes

1. Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)

Eczema is a common skin problem that affects many adults and children. It is a chronic skin condition that makes the skin very dry and itchy. It can appear as a rash or as red, scaly patches on the skin. A few complicated factors cause eczema, and many different types of Eczema can be found all over the body. In general, the most common cause of eczema is a genetic predisposition to it, or an overactive immune system.

2. Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic skin condition that causes red and flaky areas on the face and scalp. It is triggered by overactive yeast and bacteria on the skin. It is very common in babies and children, and many adults can get it. It can cause an itchy rash on the scalp, face, and body, including the armpit.

3. Candida Infection

Candida is a type of yeast that can live on the skin normally. When it gets out of control, it can cause a rash called candidiasis. Candida infections are the most common skin problem in women between the ages of 25 and 35. This is due to pregnancy, birth control pills, and other hormonal changes in the body. Candida rashes are very common armpit rashes and can be easily treated with antifungal ointments and creams.

4. Ringworm

Ringworm is a form of fungus that can be found anywhere on the body, including the armpit. It is very common in children but can show up in adults as well. Ringworm is usually not serious, but it can spread to other parts of the body if it is not treated.  Many times ringworm rashes are treated with over-the-counter antifungal medications.

5. Dermatitis

Dermatitis is a general term used to describe any form of rash. It can be caused by many different factors, including eczema, seborrhea, and psoriasis. Dermatitis is usually treated with topical corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and itching. Rashes can be treated with hydrocortisone cream and other OTC anti-itching medications.

6. Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes scaly, red patches of skin to appear all over the body. It is not contagious, but it can be painful and disfiguring. It is caused by the immune system and can be triggered by stress or other factors. Psoriasis is usually treated with creams and ointments that contain corticosteroids and other medications.

7. Lichen Planus

Lichen Planus is a skin condition that causes reddish, flat patches of skin without any itchiness. It is not contagious, and it is usually triggered by an infection, allergy, or an overactive immune system. Lichen Planus is commonly found on the skin of the armpits, genitals, and face.

8. A Drug Reaction

A drug reaction is a condition caused by an allergic reaction to a medication. Drug reactions can range from mild to severe, but they are rarely life-threatening. If you've begun a new medication, or you've taken your medication in a new dose, it's important to be aware of potential side effects, as well as discuss them with your doctor.

9. Allergic Reaction To Deodorants or Washing Detergents

Many people develop armpit rashes when exposed to an ingredient they are allergic to. In many cases, deodorants and laundry detergents contain ingredients that can cause an allergic reaction. It's important to avoid products that contain these ingredients if you think you are allergic to them. If you've recently changed the brand of your deodorant or laundry detergent, you may want to consider switching back to see if it helps.

Treatments for Rashes in the Armpit

The best way to treat armpit rashes is to find out what caused them in the first place. Sometimes, that’s easy. For example, if you use a harsh deodorant that dries out your skin, you could get a rash. Other times, it might be harder. You may have to keep a journal or use an app to track your symptoms and find out how they’re related. Here are some of the most common armpit rashes and their causes:

Yeast Rash Treatment — A yeast rash under the arm is usually the result of a fungal infection. This is the most common armpit rash, affecting 10 to 25% of people at some point in their lives. The rash is usually itchy, red, and scaly.

You can treat a rash caused by an overabundance of yeast with antifungal medications like Diflucan (fluconazole), and it goes away on its own with time. However, if the rash doesn’t go away or is accompanied by a fever or chills, you should see your doctor.

Yeast rashes are more common in people with diabetes or other conditions that can cause changes in your immune system.

Bacterial Rash Treatment — Bacterial rashes happen when an infection like staph or strep causes inflammation around the sweat ducts in the armpit. It’s usually itchy and red with a thick, yellowish discharge.

Bacterial armpit rashes are often treated with antibiotics to clear up the infection.

Irritant Removal Treatment — Irritants under the arms can cause a rash. These can include:

  • Overly scented deodorant or antiperspirants
  • Wearing uncomfortable clothing against the skin
  • Allergic reactions to ingredients

If you’ve been using a new product and noticed a rash, try to separate it from what you’ve been using in that area by using a different soap or not wearing an antiperspirant.

If it’s your first time experiencing a rash in your armpits, you should always have it looked at by your doctor.

The Bottom Line

Armpit rashes typically come in the form of a red, itchy patch in the crease of the armpit. They can be due to friction from clothing, friction from shaving, or a result of an infection with bacteria, yeast, or another microorganism.

The only way you can know for sure what’s causing your armpit rash is to visit your doctor or dermatologist.

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This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. Your specific circumstances should be discussed with a healthcare provider. All statements of opinion represent the writers' judgement at the time of publication and are subject to change. Phoenix and its affiliates provide no express or implied endorsements of third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products, or services.

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