Itchy skin is an uncomfortable feeling of irritation, which causes the urge to scratch the skin. Itchy skin usually results from dry skin. This is more common in the elderly, as the skin becomes drier with age.
Depending on the cause of the injury, the skin may appear normal, red, rough, or blistered. Repeated scratching can cause thickened areas of the skin to appear, which may bleed or become infected.
Many people feel comfortable with self-care such as moisturizing daily with skin-friendly cleansers and taking a lukewarm bath. Long-term treatment requires identifying and treating the cause of the itchy skin. Common treatments include medicated creams, moist dressings, and oral anti-itch medications.
Itchy skin can affect small areas, such as an arm or leg, or involve the entire body. Itchy skin can appear without any noticeable changes to the skin. Or it may be related to:
Lumps, spots, or blisters
Dry or cracked skin
rough or scaly patches
Sometimes the itching can last a long time and can be severe. The affected area becomes more itchy the more you scratch or rub it. And the more itchy, the more you want to scratch it. This closed cycle of itchy skin and the urge to scratch can be difficult to break.
Time to visit the doctor
It is recommended to refer to your doctor or dermatologist in the following cases:
If itching persists for more than two weeks and does not improve after self-care procedures
If the itching is severe and prevents you from performing your daily routine activities or prevents you from sleeping
If the itching appears suddenly and the reasons for its appearance cannot be easily explained
If the itching is spread all over your body
If the itching is accompanied by other signs and symptoms, such as weight loss, fever or night sweats
If the condition persists for three months despite treatment, see a dermatologist to assess whether a skin disease is present. It may also be necessary to see a doctor who specializes in internal medicine to assess whether you have a skin disease.
Causes of itchy skin include:
skin diseases. Examples include dry skin (dehydration), eczema (dermatitis), psoriasis, scabies, parasites, burns, scars, insect bites, and hives.
Internal diseases. Itching all over the body may be a symptom of an underlying disease, such as liver disease, kidney disease, anemia, diabetes, thyroid problems, multiple myeloma or lymphoma.
Nerve disorders. Examples of these disorders include multiple sclerosis, nerve compression, and shingles (herpes zoster).
psychological diseases. Examples include: anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression.
Irritability and allergic reactions. Wool, chemicals, soaps, and other substances can cause skin irritation, rashes, and itching. Sometimes substances, such as poison ivy or cosmetics, can cause an allergic reaction. The body’s response to certain medications, such as narcotic pain medications (opioids), can also cause the skin to itch.
Sometimes, the cause of the itching can’t be determined.
Itchy skin that is severe or lasts longer than six weeks (chronic itch) may affect your quality of life. It may cause sleep disturbance, anxiety or depression. Long-term itching and scratching can worsen itching and potentially lead to skin injury, infection, and scarring.