Itchy Skin (Pruritus)

What is Itchy Skin?

Having itchy skin can be extremely uncomfortable. Pruritis, also known as itchy skin, can be the result of a simple rash, or other medically related condition. The most common medical related condition is is psoriasis or dermatitis. However, chronically itchy skin can also be a sign of a more severe problem, such as kidney failure or liver disease.

The appearance of itchy skin may be normal. It may also have bumps or blisters present.

While temporary relief may be obtained through over the counter ointments, creams, or antihistamine blocking oral medications, it is important to determine the cause of theĀ  itching skin. Cool baths may also help in relieving the symptoms.

What are the Symptoms of Itchy Skin?

Symptoms of pruritus can include one, or any mix of the following:

  • Redness
  • Discolored spots on the skin
  • Bumps on the skin
  • Blisters on the skin
  • Skin that is dry or cracked
  • Scaly texture on the skin

At times, the itching from various conditions can last for an extended duration of time. If the skin is scratched in an effort to relieve the symptom, the itch can become worse. This creates a hard to break cycle. Many times, scratching breaks the skin, which can lead to infection.

Itchy Skin Causes

Pruritus can be caused by a whole host of things, but the most common when the itching isn’t accompanied by a rash is dry skin. This is particularly common in older people since the skin naturally becomes drier as we get older.

When a rash accompanies pruritis, there is usually a specific skin condition to blame, such as:

  • Chicken pox
  • Eczema
  • Hives
  • Lice
  • Psoriasis
  • Scabies

Itchy skin is sometimes a symptom of a disease going on inside the body, such as:

  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Kidney failure
  • Leukemia
  • Liver disease
  • Lymphoma
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Shingles
  • Thyroid problems

Certain medications can also cause pruritis, such as:

  • Antibiotics
  • Antifungal drugs
  • Narcotics

Pregnancy often causes itchy skin, particularly on the abdomen. This is partly because of changing hormone levels, and partly due to skin stretching around the growing bump.

Finally, sometimes itching is caused by an allergy or an irritation. For example, certain materials, chemicals and ingredients in cosmetics can irritate the skin and make it itchy. In other instances, the itching could occur as a result of an actual allergy. Many food allergies can make the skin itchy.

How is Itchy Skin Treated?

After the cause of the pruritis is identified, the itchy skin can be treated. There are many medications to treat this condition, including:

  • Corticosteriods
  • Calcineurin inhibitors
  • Oral antihistamines
  • Antidepressants

If the cause of the condition is a separate medical disorder, this will be treated as well. These conditions can be:

  • kidney disease
  • iron deficiency
  • liver disease
  • thyroid deficiency
  • and many others

Itchy SkinĀ Prevention

The best way to prevent pruritis is to avoid things which tend to trigger the itching. For example, someone who tends to become irritated by cosmetics with strong scents should choose unscented products in the future.

To avoid itchy skin caused by dry skin, keep skin moisturized with a high-quality moisturizer. This helps not only to hydrate the skin, but also to create a barrier on the skin to prevent it from becoming irritated. The greasier the moisturizer, the better its protective properties will be.

If it appears that a certain medication is to blame for the itchiness, ask your doctor if there is an alternative available which might not cause the same side effect. If a medical condition is to blame, getting adequate treatment and managing the condition may help to alleviate itchiness. Alternatively, doctors may be able to recommend gels or creams which can soothe the skin and relieve itching.