Itchy skin, also known as pruritus, is an irritating feeling that makes the patient want to scratch themselves. While it is often accompanied by a rash, redness or blisters, the skin can sometimes look normal. Itchy skin has multiple causes, and some of them, like liver disease, can be surprisingly serious. To get relief, the patient needs to have the cause identified and treated.
Dry skin, or xerosis, can be itchy. It is a likely cause of the itchiness if the skin looks otherwise normal. Dry skin is usually caused by environmental conditions, like extremely cold or hot temperatures accompanied by low humidity. It can also be caused by excessive bathing or washing or prolonged use of heating or air conditioners.
Many skin conditions have itching as a symptom. Such conditions include psoriasis, eczema (dermatitis), scabies, hives, or allergic reactions. In these conditions, the itching typically affects specific areas and is accompanied by other signs, like blisters or other rashes.
Fungal skin infections are another common cause of itchy skin. They are usually caused by yeasts, like Candida or dermatophytes. Common examples include athlete’s foot and ringworm. They most typically occur in moist areas where skin surfaces meet, like under the breasts, between the toes or in the genital area. They generally cause a scaly, irritated, red rash along with the itchiness.
Many allergies can also cause itching. Cosmetics, poison ivy and some soaps can all trigger allergic reactions that include irritated, itchy skin. Food allergies can also cause itchy skin. Some other items, like wool, may irritate the skin without causing a full-blown allergic reaction.
Many bugs bite or sting people, and the results can also cause itchy skin. The mosquito is probably the best example of an insect whose bite causes itching. Fleas bite people as well as their pets, and their bites can cause an itchy rash.
Bees, wasps, ants and their relatives all have stings that can cause allergic reactions in people. Even if someone isn’t allergic, they are still likely to develop a painful, red swelling in the affected area. Fire ants can bite as well as sting, and their bites can cause hives and blisters. Bites from bedbugs can cause an itchy rash.
The puss caterpillar has the distinction of being the most venomous caterpillar in the United States, and its fur makes it look deceptively cute. Said fur hides venomous spines, and the stings from the spines can cause pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, cramps, restlessness and shock along with an itchy rash. Puss caterpillars are found mainly in the South.
Some drugs can cause reactions that include itchy skin as a symptom. Examples are antibiotics, some pain medications and antifungal treatments. Itchy skin can also be a symptom of some disorders or conditions affecting the nervous system. Examples include pinched nerves, shingles and multiple sclerosis.
Some systemic or internal diseases also cause itchy skin. In such conditions, the skin looks normal, but there is itching over the whole body. Celiac disease, liver disease and some cancers can all cause itchy skin.
Consult the Professionals
If you are suffering from itchy skin, our highly qualified team of experts at Dermatology Associates is here to help. For your convenience, we have offices in Norwood, Foxboro and Franklin. During a consultation at one of our offices, we can help you determine the cause of your itchy skin, and then formulate a treatment plan that will relieve you of your symptoms. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.