Facts about itchy skin: Pruritus is the medical term that is used to describe itchy skin. The most common causes of itching include exposure to sun, atopic dermatitis, dry skin, infestations, infections, chronic diseases, stings, bites and allergic reactions. Most anti-itch creams and lotions contain ingredients like pramoxine, diphenhydramine, caladryl, Benadryl, tronolane, camphor, benzocaine and menthol that bring relief to itchy skin.
Corticosteroid medications also help in some instances of itching. Another thing that is considered necessary is to avoid scratching and making the condition of itching much worse. Any itching done can make the condition worse and lead to a bacterial infection. In case the itching persists for too long, gets worse or develops into skin lesions, it is better to consult a health care provider who can assess the situation.
What is an itch?
Irritation of the skin that creates the urge to scratch is known as an itch. Everybody at some point experiences itching and the symptoms of itching can be generalized, as in they can spread to different parts of the body or be localized, as in they are limited to one part of the body. In some cases, itching only occurs at night.
Itching that spreads all over the body and is highly generalized is a lot more uncomfortable than localized itching that is contained in one spot. Skin lesions, rashes, blisters, bumps, abnormalities, and redness can also occur at the site of itching. A doctor or medical professional should evaluate any itching that comes along with visible physical skin abnormality of symptoms. In case a skin condition requires a specialized medical treatment, like in the case of skin conditions like scabies or eczema, a dermatologist should be consulted.
The symptoms and other physical signs associated with pruritus or itching depend upon the main underlying cause of the problem and can be associated with different signs. Skin lesions like bumps, redness, rash, and blisters are the main give away, although dryness is also a prevalent cause of itching. When one scratches the skin, tiny tears are caused on the skin, known as excoriations. In rare cases, generalized itching that occurs all across the body is indicative of a liver disease or some other chronic medical condition. When the underlying condition is a chronic medical problem, there may be no changes in the appearance of the itchy skin.
There are many conditions that cause itching and pruritus can be caused due to anxiety, stress and even emotional problems. Other related causes associated with stress can also cause itching. Xerosis or dry skin is on the most common causes of itching that happens without a rash. Overexposure or prolonged exposure to sunburn also results in itching due to exposure to UV radiation caused by the sun. Hormone disorders and metabolic disorders may also cause itching without any specific skin changes or even the hint of a rash. These conditions include hyperthyroidism, cancers like lymphoma and kidney disease, reactions to certain drugs cholestasis or interruption in the flow of bile in case of liver diseases, diseases of the blood like polycythemia rubra vera, allergic reactions, other allergies, bites from mosquitoes or fleas.
Another chronic cause of inflammation of the itchy skin is psoriasis, which also is associated with itching. A red, elevated scaling plaque of itchy dry skin often develops on the skin of people suffering from psoriasis. A chronic inflammatory disease of the skin known as atopic dermatitis that occurs in childhood also shows symptoms of rash, itching, and thickening of the skin over a period of time. It is a kind of allergy that is associated with inhaled allergies like hay fever or pollen fever and is often a chronic problem.
Infestations and infections of the skin are another cause of itching in the skin. Genital infections like sexually transmitted diseases in men and women lead to itching in the genital area. Women may suffer from vaginal yeast infections that can cause of vaginal itching. A fungal or yeast infection around the tinea cruris is another common infectious disease. Swimmer’s itch is another condition that is a skin rash that is caused by an allergic reaction that occurs due to infection of parasites in mammals and birds. Swimmer’s itch is also known as cercarial dermatitis, and these parasites that cause it are released by snails that are infected with salt water and fresh water. Hence the name swimmer’s itch is given. Skin infestation by lice like body lice, pubic lice, and head lice is also a common cause of itching, while a skin condition known as scabies is a very contagious skin condition that is caused by the mite called Sarcoptesscabiei, which causes a very intense itch that gets severe at night and needs treatment.
Itchy skin can thus be a result of many conditions.