Itching is a common occurrence for all of us and at some point of life we have experienced. But severe itching can be embarrassing causing discomfort to the person. The symptoms of itching may vary from mild to severe depending on the cause and itching can be described as uncontrollable urge to scratch the body. Itching can be limited to specific areas (hair, buttocks or anus) or it can be throughout the body. Itching may or may not be accompanied with other symptoms. Causes of itching are many ranging from allergic reaction to dry skin. Treatment for itching are available in the form of home remedies, medications and therapy.
Most of the time itching can affect your skin causing dryness. Itching is related with other symptoms like redness of skin, dry skin, skin rashes, flaky skin, cracked skin and formation of bumps, blisters or spots on the skin. Peculiarly itching can be intense during night and controlled during the day. For some people there can be itching day/night and throughout the body. Itching may lead to flaky skin or development of scales on the skin. In medical terms itching is known as “Pruritus” and anything that evokes the response of itching is called as pruritic.
What Causes Your Skin To Itch? :
Various factors can cause whole body itching.
- Dry Skin : Dryness of skin is the majority cause for itching. Dry skin can occur due to hot/cold weather or living in A/C room for hours together or using central heating equipment for the entire day. Excessive washing or bathing can wash away the natural moisture from the skin causing dry skin.
- Certain Skin Problems : Contact dermatitis, hives, psoriasis and eczema and skin cancer and lymphoma can cause itching of skin throughout the body. Often itching caused by these problems are accompanied with other symptoms like redness of skin and irritation and bumps/blisters on the skin.
- Certain Diseases : Any problem in the function of kidney, liver, mal-absorption, iron deficiency, fluctuating hormones, thyroid problems and certain types of cancer can cause itching throughout the body.
- Nerve Problems : Certain conditions like diabetic neuropathy, multiple sclerosis and shingles can cause whole body itching.
- Allergic Response : Allergies caused by chemicals, detergents, soaps and perfumes can cause skin irritation and itching. Certain poisonous substances like poison ivy can trigger allergic reaction instantly. Sometimes food allergies can also evoke itching.
- Infections : Infection caused by fungus like jock itch, dhobi’s itch, chicken pox, and athlete’s foot can cause skin irritation and severe itching.
- Medications : Certain drugs like antifungal medications, antibiotics and painkillers can trigger allergic reaction causing whole body itching.
Itching can be common during pregnancy since the body expands to accommodate the baby inside. The muscles of thigh, abdomen and breast region expands vigorously as the infant grows inside the uterus which can cause itching. You need to consult your GP or dermatologist if itching persists for more than 2-3 days and accompanied with other symptoms. You can get relief by self-care measures and over the counter drugs.
Your doctor would complete physical exam looking for symptoms carefully. He may order for blood test to identify any internal diseases and blood chemistry to check the condition of kidney. He may order for thyroid function test if he suspects abnormality in thyroid hormone. He may request for other tests based on the symptoms.
For mild to moderate itching of whole body you can take oral antihistamines and apply corticosteroid creams. You need to understand that itching caused by skin dryness or allergic response would always settle within few days. If the symptoms persist for more than 3 days, you can consult your GP. Your doctor may prescribe steroid creams of suitable strength which can be applied on the affected areas. He may prescribe Elidel and other calcineurin inhibitors for managing the symptoms.
In addition, he may give you drugs like Cetirizine or Claritin for getting quick relief from itching. These drugs are sedative and hence you should be careful if you are driving. For some people SSRI inhibitors like Prozac or Zoloft are effective. In case the problem is due to underlying disease or disorder suitable treatments are initiated to address specific problem or disease.
- Phototherapy :
The affected part of the skin is exposed to light therapy of fixed ultraviolet radiation. But one has to undergo several sessions to minimize the symptoms.
Home Remedies :
You can use anti-itch cream or topical anesthetics like lidocaine. Alternatively, you can apply wet compress over the area and cover it with dressings.
- Do not change your soap or perfume frequently.
- Taking oatmeal bath is effective for whole body itching.
- Never choose strong detergents for washing.
- Change the bedding and blankets regularly.
- Practice yoga and meditation to control stress.