What Is Itching ?
Itching can be described as uncontrollable sensation that tempts one to scratch the skin. Itching can occur all over the skin or limited to specific regions. Itching can be caused due to many factors ranging from skin conditions to more serious problems in the kidneys or liver. Itching can be the response to certain allergic stimulus. Dermatitis, skin infection, insect bites, chronic diseases, over exposure to sunlight and dryness of the skin are the major causes for itching. Itching can occur all through the day or only at times of stress or sometimes only during nighttime.
Persistent itching can affect the quality sleep and you may feel tired the following day. For many people itching worsens at night for no defined reason. Itching targets the people with underlying medical illness and if itching continues for more than couple of nights you need to check with your doctor to identify the root cause.
Why There Is Increased Itching At Nighttime ?
For many people itching becomes worse at night for unknown cause. Psoriasis and dermatitis also increases itching at night. People with chronic illness like kidney or liver disorders would also have nighttime itching. One needs to follow conservative treatment alongside with doctor’s prescription drugs to manage uncontrolled itching at night.
Symptoms Of Nighttime Itching :
Itching at any time can cause symptoms like skin rashes, skin lesions, bumps and blisters. Specific skin area can become reddish and tender. For some people the outer layer of the skin gets torn up due to persistent scratching.
Nighttime Itching Causes :
Itching all over the body can occur due to many causes.
- Allergic Reactions – Sudden onset of itching (mostly all over the body) can occur due to allergic reactions caused by food poisoning. Eating allergic foods for dinner can intensify nighttime itching. To prevent this, you need to identify the list of foods/drinks that induce allergic response and completely avoid them.
- Insect Bites and Stings – Stings (honeybee) and insect bites can trigger the immune system resulting in itching. Bed bugs, flea bites and mosquito bites can also cause nighttime itching. Make sure that you are using nets or any other protective measures before going to bed.
- Stress/Anxiety – Increased stress or anxiety can cause itching and other symptoms like diarrhea/constipation and rapid heartbeat. When a person is worried about some event or expecting something to happen the next day he/she may not be able to sleep properly. The defense mechanism of the body can induce itching. Emotional issues can also cause persistent itching.
- Exposure To Sunlight – If your body is exposed to harsh UV radiations of the sun it can cause sunburn resulting in itching. You can avoid this kind of itching by not going out during daytime or wearing protective masks and sunscreen lotions while going out. Repeated sunburns can lead to skin cancer also.
- Dry Skin – Dryness is another common factor that induces itching. Some people are born with dry skin and they can use moisturizing creams regularly to control itching.
- Underlying Medical Conditions – Chronic problems in kidneys or liver can trigger itching. Liver infection or kidney disease can cause itching all over the body which worsens at night. Certain hormone changes like hyperthyroidism can induce itching. Similarly blood related disorders like polycythemia vera can cause persistent itching along with other symptoms.
- Bed and Clothing – Poor hygiene of bedding and clothing can cause nighttime itching. Certain insects like bed lice and scabies would hide in the bed and clothing and produce severe symptoms during night. Sometimes using rough woolen clothing and blankets can increase skin irritation.
- Skin Conditions – Psoriasis, atopic dermatitis and other skin conditions can cause itching all over the body. For some people genital itching becomes worse at nighttime. This can be due to fungal infections caused by tinea Curtis and commonly known as jock’s itch or dhobi’s itch. Swimmer’s itch is a kind of allergic reaction caused by infection. Parasites living in water bodies can transmit such infection. Pubic lice and head lice can also cause itching. Parasites like Sarcoptes scabiei can trigger intense itching at night.
- STD – Sexually transmitted diseases can cause vaginal itching and anal itching.
Why Nighttime ?
Actually itching is a phenomenon that happens during day and night. But the person becomes more aware of the itching during night than at day because when he sleeps there is intense awareness of the itching sensation due to reduction of any other stimuli. Itching would be of same intensity during daytime also but the heightened perception gives the feeling the feeling of intense itching only during nighttime. Repeated itching due to inflammatory skin conditions can significantly affect the quality of sleep in people with such diseases. People affected with nocturnal pruritus (nighttime itching) would have reduced time of non-REM sleeping pattern. Lack of proper sleep at night can cause fatigue, mood changes and irritation during the entire day.
Nighttime Itching Home Remedies :
- Do not choose high scented soaps or perfumes for your body.
- If you are using antibacterial soap check with your doctor how long you can use it.
- If you are dry skinned person use moisturizing creams liberally on the skin before going to bed.
- Bathing in lukewarm water before bedtime can help in removing any allergens from your skin.
- Keep your bedroom cool and well ventilated.
- Change the bed linen regularly to prevent bites from lice.
- Change the bed mattress at regular intervals or use a mattress protector.
- Wear cotton clothing while sleeping.
- Seek help from pest control agent for eradicating any pests from your house.
- For people with inflammatory skin disorders using topical creams can relieve the symptoms.
- Wrap some ice cubes on a soft cloth and gently massage it on your body. Cold and wet compress can disturb the nerve fibers so that you may not feel itching as before.
- Taking oatmeal bath before bedtime can be effective to control nighttime itching.
- Avoid exposure in sunlight and use a suitable sunscreen cream if you are going out.
Medical Treatment :
If there is persistent itching during night, it is better to consult your dermatologist early. Antihistamines like Benadryl or Atarax or Chlorpheniramine are given for itching. These drugs can make you drowsy so take care when you are driving or operating any machine. Loratadine or fexofenadine can be prescribed to reduce the intensity of itching. They are not sedative but effective in managing the itch.
Itching cannot be prevented but by taking preventive measures you can control itching. You need to identify the underlying cause and resolve it.