What causes an ankle rash?

Ankle rashes can be caused by a wide variety of diseases, disorders and conditions, such as infection, inflammation, allergic reaction, parasite and insect bites, and autoimmune processes. For example, an acute ankle rash that appears suddenly may be caused by an allergic reaction or sensitivity to a particular substance, such as poison ivy, hair waxing or shaving, or an insect bite.

A chronic, ongoing ankle rash may be caused by atopic dermatitis (eczema)or psoriasis. Psoriasis is characterized by slightly raised patches of itchy skin with red borders and silver scales.

Serious causes of ankle rashes include a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis (tightening and closing of the airways), and cellulitis (an invasive bacterial or fungal infection of the skin and surrounding tissues).

Infectious causes of an ankle rash

An ankle rash may be caused by a variety of infectious diseases including:

  • Bacterial infection, such as from streptococcal and staphylococcal bacteria

  • Chickenpox

  • Fifth disease (mild viral infection in children that can also cause harm to unborn babies)

  • Folliculitis (infection or inflammation of a hair follicle)

  • Measles

  • Ringworm

  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever

  • Viral infections such as roseola

Allergic causes of an ankle rash

An ankle rash may be caused by an allergic reaction including:

  • Allergic contact dermatitis, such as an allergy to a perfumed body lotion

  • Allergic purpura

  • Atopic dermatitis (eczema including chronic eczema)

  • Drug reaction

  • Irritant contact dermatitis, such as from contact with poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac

Autoimmune and inflammatory causes of an ankle rash

An ankle rash may be caused by autoimmune and inflammatory disorders including:

  • Cutaneous lupus (autoimmune disease that affects the skin)

  • Discoid eczema (often due to dry skin)

  • Erythema nodosum (inflammatory disorder)

  • Psoriasis

  • Vasculitis (inflammation of blood vessels)

Parasite or insect causes of an ankle rash

An ankle rash may be caused by parasites or insects including:

  • Bedbugs

  • Body lice

  • Fleas or ticks (ticks carry the bacteria that cause Rocky Mountain spotted fever)

  • Mites (parasites that cause scabies)

  • Mosquitoes (mosquitoes also carry parasitic diseases)

Other causes of an ankle rash

An ankle rash may also accompany the following conditions:

  • Anxiety and stress

  • Golfer’s vasculitis (lower leg rash caused by long periods of exercise in hot temperatures)

  • Heat (heat rash)

  • Methamphetamine abuse

  • Varicose veins

  • Venous eczema (also called gravitational dermatitis; a complication of deep vein thrombosis or other blood vessel disorder)

Life-threatening causes of an ankle rash

In some cases, an ankle rash may accompany a serious or life-threatening condition, including a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Life-threatening conditions include:

  • Anaphylaxis

  • Erythema multiforme (type of allergic reaction)

  • Toxic epidermal necrolysis (skin and mucosal loss due to a severe medication reaction)

What are the potential complications of an ankle rash?

In some cases, an ankle rash can lead to complications, especially if there is severe itching and scratching that leads to breakdown of the skin. Scratching can introduce bacteria or fungi into the layers of skin, resulting in infections. Complications of an ankle rash include:

  • Bacterial or fungal infection of the skin

  • Cellulitis

  • Open sores and lesions

  • Permanent change in skin texture or scarring

  • Permanent skin discoloration

Complications of underlying causes of an ankle rash, such as diabetes or peripheral artery disease, can also occur. You can best reduce the risk of complications of an ankle rash and its underlying causes by following the treatment plan you and your healthcare provider develop specifically for you.


  1. Golfer’s vasculitis. The Medical Journal of Australia. http://www.mja.com.au/public/issues/183_01_040705/nix10218_fm.html.
  2. Rashes. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003220.htm.
  3. Rashes affecting the lower legs. DermNet NZ. http://dermnetnz.org/site-age-specific/lower-leg.html.
  4. What Are Varicose Veins? National Heart Lung and Blood Institute Diseases and Conditions Index. National Institutes of Health. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Disease/vv/vv_all.html.

What is an ankle rash?

An ankle rash is an inflammatory reaction of the skin on the ankles. Rashes on the ankle can be caused by a wide variety of mild to serious diseases, disorders and conditions. Ankle rashes can affect a small to large area of one or both ankles at a time, and can occur in all age groups and populations. Ankle rashes are often part of larger areas of rash extending to the legs and feet.

Read more about ankle rashintroduction


What other symptoms might occur with an ankle rash?

An ankle rash can occur by itself or with other symptoms that affect the skin and possibly other areas of the body. Symptoms vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. For example, you may have flu-like symptoms if the ankle rash is due to infection or inflammation. Some coexisting symptoms, ... Read more about ankle rashsymptoms

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Jul 29, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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