Itching describes the sensation of skin irritation that can occur on one part of the body or in several different areas at a time. Itching is not health condition or disease in itself, but is very often a symptom of some underlying health condition. Itching or Pruritus creates the urge to scratch and may be accompanied by a rash, blisters, or bumps on the skin. Itching without any skin abnormalities and those that are more generalized are often difficult to diagnose and treat.
Scratching can increase the intensity of an itch and can lead to further complications such as neurodermatitis, permanent skin damage, scarring, and other bacterial skin infections.
Itching can be localized, affecting only small areas of skin such as on the arms or legs, back or face. Generalized itching involves the whole body feeling itchy for no apparent reason. Spots, blisters, rashes, and red skin may accompany itchy skin. Other symptoms include dry skin, cracked skin, and a leathery texture of the skin (due to constant scratching).
In some cases, itchiness can get worse at night. Itchy skin can often last for long periods of time and cause anxiety and stress. In case itchy skin does not clear up with self-care and home remedies, visit your dermatologist for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
You should also visit your doctor if itching is accompanied by any of the following symptoms:
During the consultation with your doctor or dermatologist you will be asked a number of questions in order to determine the cause of the itching. Some of these questions are:
In addition to these questions you may be required to undergo a blood test, a skin biopsy or even an x-ray to determine the proper treatment for the itching.
Depending on whether the itching is generalized or localized there are several causes. These include:
Home remedies for itchy skin can help relieve symptoms of discomfort and pain without the side effects associated with oral or topical medications.
One of the easiest ways to relieve itching is by using cold water in the form of a bath or shower or a cold compress on the skin. The sensations of cold and itchiness travel along the same neural pathways in the body. Using cold water on the skin can thus reduce the feeling of itchiness. You could either pour cool running water on the affected areas or apply an ice pack for quick relief against itching. Having hot water baths or showers should be avoided when suffering from itchy skin.
Simple ways for itchy skin relief include wearing loose cotton clothes especially to bed, applying a moisturizer or skin lotion to the skin to keep it hydrated, and avoid excess heat and humidity that causes sweating and aggravates itchiness.
Keep in mind that while many of these home remedies are known to help relieve itching, not all of these have been tested scientifically and in some cases, results may vary greatly. Home remedies to relieve itching include:
There is a distinct possibility that there may be a correlation between your diet and the symptoms of itchiness. Food allergies can cause rashes and inflammation of the skin that lead to itching. Altering your diet to reduce itching is the best option once you know what foods trigger the itching symptoms.
Foods that are high in proteins can cause allergic reactions in the body. These include nuts, milk, eggs, shellfish, and soy. Some people react to raw nuts, vegetables and fruits such as parsley, pears, apples, hazelnuts, bananas and melons. This is referred to as a pollen-food allergy syndrome and it can cause itchiness around your mouth and throat. This happens because your immune system confuses the proteins in these types of foods as a type of pollen and an allergic reaction is triggered. Cooking the food before you eat it can reduce the symptoms of this syndrome. The reaction to the food items is localized and rarely leads to a medical emergency.
Contact dermatitis can cause red raised patches of skin and severe itching. This happens when a particular food comes in direct contact with your skin. Tomatoes, peanut butter, and kiwis have been known to cause such reactions among certain subjects. If you happen to touch foods that cause this allergy, immediately wash the skin with soap and water and apply a cream that contains hydrocortisone before the itching can start.
Scratching can cause severe damage to the skin. The cycle of itching and scratching is very difficult to break. To avoid scratching keep your nails as short as possible and file them down so that the jagged edges dont further aggravate the skin. Wear gloves when you sleep to prevent scratching at night. Try and keep your skin covered with clothing at most times, as this will offer some protection if you unwittingly scratch at the skin. Pinching or rubbing the skin instead of scratching is another option. Using a high quality moisturizing cream can also prevent scratching as this soothes the skin and relieves itching. Wear clothes made out of smooth breathable fabrics and use a mild detergent to wash. Avoid exposing your skin to any substances that could cause an allergic reaction such as metals, perfume, and beauty products.