If You are Often Itchy, Beware: The Itch May be More Than Skin Deep
Itching is not normally thought of as a serious condition,
but anyone who's had a bout of poison ivy, a bad case of chicken
pox or a chronic itch that wouldn't go away knows that itching
can be extremely uncomfortable and even debilitating.
Itching, or pruritus as it's known medically, can also signal
a more serious issue, particularly if you have ruled out the
more common and obvious causes. Typical itchiness can be caused
by any number of factors, including:
A chronic itch can feel like a nightmare
common triggers aren't to blame, see a health care provider
to rule out a more serious condition.
Sensitivities to chemicals, fragrances and harsh detergents
Allergic reactions to drugs
Poison ivy and other plants
With this type of itching, there may also be a rash involved,
but the itching is finite and goes away after exposure to
the trigger is stopped.
Many types of skin conditions, including eczema and psoriasis,
and infections, such as chicken pox, will also cause intense
itching. Again, when the condition is cleared up, the itching
When Itching May be Serious
If you are often itchy and have ruled out more obvious potential
causes, you should be aware of these more serious illnesses
that can cause itching that doesn't seem to go away, or that
1. Chronic Kidney Failure: In this condition, the
kidneys lose their ability to excrete wastes, concentrate
urine, and conserve electrolytes. Itching is a common initial
symptom, along with weight loss, fatigue, headache, frequent
hiccups, vomiting and nausea.
2. Cancer: Cancer treatments and certain cancers commonly
cause itching. Types of cancer that are associated with itching
include malignant melanoma, leukemia and lymphoma, cancers
of the stomach, pancreas, lung, colon, brain, breast and prostate,
as well as cancers that have spread to the skin.
3. Liver Disease: Liver diseases including cirrhosis,
primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), and hepatitis C can
all cause itching. Although the reasons behind the itching
are not known for sure, it's thought that it may be caused
by substances accumulating in the blood. Symptoms of liver
disease vary, but along with itching can include:
4. Thyroid Disease: Hypothyroidism, a sluggish or
"underactive" thyroid, as well as hyperthyroidism,
which is an overactive thyroid, and other types of thyroid
disease can cause itching. Other symptoms of hypothyroidism
For minor itches, smoothing on a calming lotion can
help soothe the skin and the itch. We like Quret
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
5. Biliary (Bile Duct) Obstruction: This condition
occurs when any duct that carries bile from the liver to the
gallbladder or from the gallbladder to the small intestine
becomes blocked. Itching is associated with this condition,
some believe, because of an accumulation of bile acids in
the skin. Other symptoms of biliary obstruction include:
6. Autoimmune Disorders: Many autoimmune disorders,
in which the immune system attacks its own tissues, are associated
with itching. Symptoms vary depending on which part of the
body is affected, but along with itching may also include:
What to Do if You Itch
If you're suffering from itching caused by an identifiable
and non-serious source (such as a mosquito bite or minor allergic
reaction to a toiletry), you can use the following steps to
soothe your itch. If, however, you have unexplainable itching,
or itching that doesn't go away, you should see your health
care provider immediately.
Try not to scratch the itchy area.
Wear loose-fitting, soft clothing.
Try taking a lukewarm bath and adding oatmeal or cornstarch,
which helps soothe the skin.
Apply a calming lotion, such as the incredibly soothing
Drawing Salve, to your skin (avoid using any products
that contain fragrances, which could irritate the itch).
Apply a cold-pack to the itchy area.
Avoid excessive heat and humidity.
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