What causes red skin on feet and ankles?

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The possible causes of red skin on feet and ankles are varied. Diagnosis will depend on whether the redness is also itchy or sore, swollen or hot to the touch, unified or blotchy, and whether there are other accompanying symptoms.

Some of these conditions are serious or are indicators of a serious underlying condition; some are extremely rare. All diagnoses should be made by a qualified medical professional.


Itchy skin rashes may be allergic contact dermatitis. On feet and ankles, this might be a reaction to walking through particular plants or to socks washed in a new detergent. Atopic dermatitis (eczema) in infants commonly affects feet and ankles. Neurodermatitis causes localised patches of raised, rough, itchy red skin, often on the ankle.


This is the inflammation of fat beneath the skin and causes patches of red, hardened, and thickened skin — often on the feet, ankles, and hands.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

In this bacterial infection from tick bites, a rash on the ankles or wrists is preceded by fever, nausea, abdominal pain, headache, and sensitivity to light.


Caused by bleeding beneath the skin, these tiny spots most commonly occur on the ankles and feet. In a mass they appear as a rash. The redness does not disappear when you apply pressure. Petechiae can indicate various serious medical conditions.

Henoch-Schonlein purpura

This form of vasculitis (an inflammation of the blood vessels), usually found in children, causes a red rash on the legs, buttocks, and feet, especially around the sock line. The ankle joints are usually swollen and painful with this rash. Serious damage can occur to the kidneys and bowel.


One fourth of people with this inflammatory immune response develop a rash, usually on the ankles and shins. This rash is warm, tender, and accompanied by a dry cough, breathlessness, fever, and fatigue. This condition can damage organs or lead to blindness.

Grave Dermopathy

This rare complication of Grave disease (a serious thyroid condition) most commonly affects shins, ankles, and feet, producing thickened, lumpy, red skin. This will be accompanied by symptoms of thyroid disease: weight loss, fatigue, rapid heartbeat, and anxiety.


This bacterial skin infection most commonly affects the feet and lower legs, causing redness, heat, tenderness, and swelling. Cellulitis rash may be accompanied by fever and spreads rapidly, becoming life threatening.


Parvovirus is usually a mild disease of childhood. In adults, pregnant women, and people with impaired immunity, it can be serious and sometimes recurrent and persistent. A facial rash moves to the trunk and limbs, with accompanying fatigue, joint pain, and swelling of the hands, wrists, feet, and ankles, which may be red and hot to the touch. With chronic infection, feet and ankles may be periodically red or purple, particularly after baths or showers.

Raynaud disease

In this condition, blood vessels to the arms and legs contract, causing the extremities to become cold and change colour--usually white at first, followed by blue, then red and throbbing.

Familial Mediterranean Fever

This hereditary inflammatory condition is most common in people of Mediterranean extraction. A red rash on the lower legs accompanies recurring bouts of fever, abdominal pain, bowel upset, and swollen joints.