Itchy skin, also called pruritus, can range from a mild discomfort to an intense need to scratch. Depending on the cause, there may be no visual symptoms or the skin may be dry, red, or have bumps or blisters. Itchy areas often appear to be dry, cracked, leathery, or scaly. The itching may be localized or spread across the entire body. Depending on the cause, the discomfort can be temporary or long-lasting.
Itching may be caused by an allergic reaction, dry skin, rash, dermatitis or psoriasis. It may be a side effect of a more serious condition such as kidney failure, liver disease, celiac disease, anemia, or a nerve disorder. Certain medications like antibiotics, antifungals, and narcotics can cause users to experience skin itching. Pregnant women are also likely to experience itching on the belly, arms, breasts, and thighs.
When itchy skin is scratched it causes inflammation which often results in an increase in the intensity of the itching feeling and a renewed desire to scratch. This vicious cycle of itching and scratching often results in skin damage and the possibility of infection or scarring.
Symptoms can often be relieved with the use of over-the-counter anti-itch creams and home remedies such as soaking in a cool bath. Curing the condition is dependent on diagnosing and treating the underlying causes. The use of wet dressings, light therapy, and prescription medications have been found to be effective. If symptoms fail to resolve within two weeks of using home methods, medical treatment is recommended.
A medical consultation is recommended if home treatment methods are ineffective and itching is not resolved within two weeks. If the sensation is body-wide, does not appear to have an obvious explanation, or is accompanied by other symptoms like extreme fatigue, weight loss, change in bowel or urinary habits, or fever, a physician should be consulted.
"It is rare to find health professionals who are so willing to educate the patient on what they need to know."