Why is my skin so itchy?
Itchy skin can be caused by various conditions such as eczema or dermatitis. In rare instances, more severe health issues like kidney failure and liver disease may also be the underlying cause of itchy skin.
Pruritus, more commonly referred to as itchy skin, is an uncomfortable and uncontrollable sensation prompting an urge to scratch. Causes of itchiness can include underlying medical conditions and various skin disorders.
It is recommended to seek medical advice if the source of itchiness is unclear. A healthcare professional can help identify the underlying cause and provide appropriate treatments for relief.
Various home remedies, including over-the-counter creams and moisturizers, can be effective in soothing itchy skin.
Possible causes of itchy skin may include:
- Skin conditions: Examples of common skin conditions include xerosis (dry skin), dermatitis (eczema), psoriasis, scabies, parasites, burns, scars, insect bites and hives.
- Internal diseases: Itching throughout the body may indicate an underlying medical issue, including liver and kidney diseases, anemia, diabetes, thyroid disorders, or various forms of cancer.
- Nerve disorders: Examples of conditions that can cause nerve pain include multiple sclerosis, pinched nerves, and shingles (herpes zoster).
- Psychiatric conditions: Examples of mental health conditions include anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression.
- Irritation and allergic reactions: It is possible for an individual to experience skin irritation and related itching or rashes due to substances like wool, chemicals, soaps, poison ivy, cosmetics, or medicines such as narcotics used to treat pain (opioids). In some cases, these may be caused by allergic reactions.
In some cases, an underlying cause of itching cannot be identified.
Dry skin can cause changes to the texture of your skin, making it appear rough instead of soft. This can result in itchiness or a change in color from your usual skin tone. Dry skin patches, which are small areas of dry skin, may occur as well, though dry skin may also affect a more extensive area of the skin. Dry skin can be a common and usually non-threatening condition; however, it can lead to feeling uncomfortable until moisture is restored through the use of a suitable moisturizer.
Severely dry skin can become fragile and prone to flaking or cracking, which can result in painful sores. To prevent infection in the event of a skin sore caused by dry skin, it is important to treat it as you would any other injury or wound.
Who does dry skin affect?
Dry skin is a frequent occurrence, and nearly everyone experiences it at some point in their life. Individuals who may be more likely to develop dry skin are those who:
- Live in a dry or cold climate.
- Work outside often.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Have another health condition like allergies.
- Are 65 years or older.
How can I determine if I have dry skin?
To determine if your skin is dry, you can conduct a simple test at home by lightly dragging your fingernails across the area of your body. To ensure accuracy and prevent any unnecessary discomfort, it is important to refrain from applying any pressure with your nails or scratching your skin. When conducting this test, apply it to a large area of exposed skin on either the arms or legs. As you perform the test, observe any signs of flaking on the surface of the skin. If present, flaky skin can appear as small snowflakes or dust particles and is indicative of dryness. It is possible to observe a faint line resembling a chalkboard mark on the skin where this test was performed.
This condition is considered a medical emergency and may require urgent care.
According to the NHS, these rashes can be caused when the body’s immune system reacts to allergens in contact with the skin.
One can develop itchy, raised welts within minutes to hours after coming into contact with an allergen on the skin.
Individuals may experience symptoms such as red, itchy, and scaly rash developing anywhere from hours to days after coming into contact with an allergen.
Individuals suffering from severe and abrupt allergic reactions may experience swelling and difficulty breathing, indicating a need for emergency medical assistance.
This condition may be classified as a medical emergency and requires urgent medical attention.
A rash is a change in the texture or color of the skin that is visible to the eye.
A 2015 study suggested that rashes may have several potential underlying causes, such as insect bites, allergic reactions, side effects of medication, fungal skin infection, bacterial skin infection, infectious disease, or autoimmune disease.
At-home management of rash symptoms is often possible. However, it is important to seek urgent medical attention for severe rashes, particularly if accompanied by additional symptoms such as fever, pain, dizziness, vomiting, or difficulty breathing.
- Chickenpox is an infectious condition that presents with clusters of itchy, discolored, fluid-filled blisters in various stages of healing on the body.
- Individuals with a rash may experience fever, body aches, sore throat, and a decreased appetite.
- It is essential to note that the virus remains contagious until all blisters have fully healed and crusted over.
- Psoriasis is typically characterized by scaly, red patches of skin with a distinct, defined border.
- It is generally found on the head, elbows, knees, and lower back.
- Psoriasis may present as an itchy sensation or may be asymptomatic.
Diagnosing the cause of your itch
If a physical examination and your responses fail to provide insight into the cause of your itching, your physician may suggest conducting further tests.
- Blood test: This could be suggestive of an underlying disorder.
- Test of your thyroid function: Thyroid testing can help to confirm or exclude the potential for thyroid-related issues.
- Skin test: This test can be used to evaluate the possibility of an allergic reaction.
- Scraping or biopsy of your skin: Your physician may utilize these tests to identify if you have an infection.
Once your doctor has identified the source of your itching, they can provide treatment for it. Additionally, they may suggest a topical medication to help reduce the itchiness. If a disease or infection is the underlying cause, your physician will provide the most appropriate treatment plan.
When the cause of the itch is more superficial, a prescription cream may be prescribed to relieve the itching.
Chronic pruritus, which is defined as itchy skin lasting for more than six weeks, can have a significant impact on one’s quality of life. This type of pruritus can cause disturbed sleep, anxiety, depression, and other troubling symptoms. Prolonged itching and scratching can have an intensifying effect, potentially resulting in skin damage, infection, and scarring.