Understanding the Causes of an Armpit Rash and How to Treat it


A woman in a blue tee shirt scratches her armpit.
Highlights
  • There are several causes of armpit rashes, including fungal and yeast infections, allergies, and chronic skin conditions.

  • Most rashes under the arms can be treated with a topical medication like a cream.

  • It’s important to see a health care professional if your armpit rash is accompanied by breathing difficulties as this could indicate a life-threatening allergic reaction.

What is an Armpit Rash?

Depending on its cause, an armpit rash can appear as irritated or inflamed skin under the arms. Symptoms of underarm rashes can include:

  • Burning sensations

  • Painful bumps

  • Fluid-filled red bumps

  • Pus-filled bumps

  • Severe itching

This type of rash can occur on armpit skin and extend to other areas of the body.

What are Armpit Rashes Caused By?

There are several types of armpit rashes, each with different causes. Let’s take a look at some common causes of skin rashes that can occur in the underarm area:

Sensitive skin

One of the most common causes of irritation in the armpit area is skin sensitivity.

The skin in the underarm area is highly sensitive, meaning the soaps and antiperspirants you use or the fabric of the clothes you wear can easily affect it.

Some people have overly sensitive skin in general, especially in the underarm area, so they may be more prone to developing rashes.

Ensure that the chemicals that reach your underarm skin aren’t irritating, and avoid restrictive clothing.

A candida rash

Also known as a yeast infection or candidiasis, candida is a type of fungal infection.

Candida infections are caused by an overgrowth of the candida fungus on the skin on various body parts, including the armpit.

Candida rashes in the armpit are known as intertrigo conditions. This occurs when the skin on the body rubs together. This creates a warm and moist environment — the perfect breeding ground for a candida infection and rash.

Symptoms of this type of rash include itching, burning, redness, scaly patches of skin, and a foul odor or discharge.

Allergic reactions

An allergic reaction is when the body comes into contact with an allergen and responds in a certain way. Allergic reactions can spread to the armpit area and cause a rash.

Different types of allergic reactions that can affect the armpit include:

  • Allergic contact dermatitis: Contact dermatitis occurs when the skin comes into contact with an irritant or allergen, including those found in soaps and deodorants. Contact dermatitis can cause an itchy rash that may include blisters or bumps.

  • Food allergies: An armpit rash can be caused by an allergic reaction to certain foods.

  • Medication allergies: Oral and topical medication applied to the armpit can trigger allergic reactions, which can cause rashes.

  • Insect bites: An armpit rash can also be caused by allergic reactions to some insect bites and stings.

A woman is sitting on a bed and applying deodorant under her arms.

Chronic inflammatory skin conditions

This is a group of disorders that are categorized by skin inflammation. These conditions can affect any body part, including the underarm, and can cause an armpit rash.

One example of an inflammatory skin condition is psoriasis, an immune disorder that causes skin cells to multiply too quickly, leading to itchy and painful patches on the skin.

Atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, is another example of a chronic skin condition that can result in an armpit rash. Eczema rashes typically include red and scaly skin that can become infected.

Treatment for chronic inflammatory skin conditions usually involves managing the underlying condition through medication and lifestyle changes.

Seborrheic dermatitis

A third kind of dermatitis that can cause an armpit rash is called seborrheic dermatitis.

Seborrheic dermatitis appears as red, scaly patches on the skin that can sometimes be slightly raised and tender. It can also cause itching and flaking of the skin.

In addition to the armpit, it can affect the scalp, face, and upper body.

Fungal rashes

There are other fungal infections aside from candida or intertrigo that can cause armpit rashes. These are:

  • Ringworm: A fungal infection that presents as a red and scaly rash with a clear center that can affect any body part.

  • Tinea Versicolor: An infection caused by the Malassezia fungus that can affect the skin on the chest, back, and armpits. It appears as small and flat scaly patches on the skin.

Poor hygiene

Maintaining good hygiene is important if you want to avoid an underarm rash like the ones described above.

When sweat and oil accumulate in the skin folds under the armpit, it creates a moist and warm environment for bacteria and fungi to grow. This can cause skin irritation, inflammation, and infection.

If the armpit area is not cleaned regularly, a buildup of dead skin cells and debris can accumulate, leading to an increased risk of developing armpit rashes.

How Can I Treat an Underarm Rash?

There are various over-the-counter (OTC) treatments available that can be used to relieve an armpit rash, including:

  • Antifungal cream: Antifungal creams and other antifungal medications can treat rashes caused by fungi like a yeast infection or ringworm.

  • Steroid creams: Hydrocortisone cream and other topical steroids can soothe irritation and inflammation of the skin under the arm.

  • Good hygiene: Keeping the armpits clean and free of bacteria can prevent future rashes from occurring.

A woman in a towel applies cream to her armpit.

Where Can I Get Help for an Inflamed Armpit Rash?

You can meet with a licensed medical provider from the comfort of your home.

Head over to LifeMD to book your telehealth appointment and get relief from painful and uncomfortable skin conditions today.

Sources

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This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Consult a healthcare professional or call a doctor in the case of a medical emergency.

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