Skin irritation can be described as the feeling of irresistible scratching. In medical terms, skin irritation is known as pruritus and this condition is common in elderly adults. The skin would be fresh and shining during adolescence and it gets dry and shrinks as one grows older and older. Repeated scratching of the skin can lead to blisters or lesions. Mild to moderate form of skin irritation can be managed with moisturizing creams and anti-itch products.
Some of the common signs of skin irritation are as follows :
- Persistent scratching
- Change in color of skin in the affected area
- Formation of bumps or blisters due to repeated scratching
- Dry and cracked skin
Skin irritation can be limited to specific area like hands or legs or sometimes it may extend throughout the skin. Skin irritation can range from mild to very intense. It gets itchier as you rub/scratch the place repeatedly. It becomes difficult to resist the temptation of scratching.
Skin Irritation Causes :
Various medical conditions and factors can cause skin irritation. Basically dryness of skin is the root cause of skin itching.
1. Dryness – Your skin becomes dry as you get old and wrinkles can be seen on the skin. Overuse of heating device like hot pads and air conditioning and repeated washing can also cause dry skin.
2. Medical Problems – Skin problems like eczema or dermatitis, scabies, hives and psoriasis can cause itchy skin.
- Eczema – It is the most common skin problem prevalent in children. It is considered to be caused by faulty gene setup. Eczema is related with certain allergic infections like asthma and allergic rhinitis.
- Contact Dermatitis – This occurs when the skin gets exposed to particular allergic products. A person who comes in touch with leaves of poison ivy oak and poison sumac can get contact dermatitis. It leads to red itchy rashes throughout the skin. Pets that are exposed to such allergic materials can transmit the allergens to humans leading to severe itching.
- Hives – Skin inflammation occurs when there is problem in the immune system that secretes plenty of histamine by mistake. Small blood vessels on the upper layer of the skin leaks out fluid causing inflammation and swelling causing angioedema. Hives can be mild or severe and it might take several months to control and treat it fully.
3. Severe form of health conditions like kidney failure, liver disease, anemia and certain kinds of cancer can cause dry skin. In these cases skin irritation occurs throughout the body.
4. Nervous problems like complications in the brain, spinal cord and pinched nerves can cause skin irritation. Due to chronic diabetes skin problems can occur.
Other Causes :
- Using harsh soaps and detergents can affect the soft layer of the skin causing skin irritation and itching.
- Allergic conditions like poison ivy and food allergy can also trigger skin irritation which can be severe.
- Certain medications including antifungal drugs, antibiotics and pain killers can cause skin irritation.
- In severe case of skin irritation it can cause skin injury and even scarring of skin.
Based on the physical examination and health condition, your doctor may request for blood test and other testing procedures like liver and kidney function test.
Based on the investigations and test results the root cause of skin irritation is identified and treated. Anti-itch gels and creams are first line treatment for skin irritation. Diphenyl hydramine drugs like Benadryl can help in controlling allergic skin rash and irritation. But it can cause drowsy feeling. Over the counter antihistamine drugs can be taken for controlling skin itching.
Corticosteroid creams are highly effective in controlling skin itching. Alternatively, medications like protopic and elidel can be used for skin irritation. Certain antidepressant drugs like Zoloft and Prozac are also recommended for controlling skin itching. Hydrocortisone cream and gel can give quick relief from redness and dry skin.
Skin moisture has to be retained to prevent skin irritation. Many home remedies like cold/wet compresses can help in controlling skin irritation. Aloe Vera gel, cucumber slice, coconut oil massage and calamine lotion can be effective for skin itching. Taking lukewarm oatmeal bath and baking soda water bath can give relief from severe itching and irritation.
For more severe medical issues like liver disease or kidney problems, your doctor would have to treat the root cause. Hives and shingles are difficult to treat but symptoms can be managed with proper medications and lifestyle. For some people, bedbugs and lice can trigger intense skin irritation and in such cases help of pesticide agency will be useful. Skin irritation always gets high during night time interfering with the quality of sleep. In that case your doctor may prescribe mild sleeping doses.
- Light Therapy
Controlled beams of ultraviolet light are passed directly on the affected area of the skin. But single session is not enough and one has to repeat multiple sessions of phototherapy for controlling skin irritation.