Itch (Itching or Pruritus)
Table of Contents
- Itch facts
- What is an itch?
- What are associated symptoms and signs of itching (pruritus)?
- What causes itching?
- What causes itching? (Continued)
- How is the cause of itching diagnosed?
- What types of specialists treat itching?
- Should people scratch the itch?
- What are topical itch treatments? Are there any home remedies for itching?
- What are topical itch treatments? Are there any home remedies for itching? (Continued)
- What are oral itch treatments?
- Can itching be prevented?
- When should the doctor be consulted for itching (pruritus)?
- What are possible complications of itching?
- What is the prognosis (outlook) for itching?
What causes itching?
Pruritus can be caused by many conditions. Stress, anxiety, or other emotional problems can cause itching. Stress also can aggravate itch from other causes. Dry skin (xerosis) is perhaps the most frequent cause of itch without a rash. Many people also report sunburn itch following prolonged exposure to UV radiation from the sun. Other causes of generalized itching that may not produce a rash or specific skin changes include metabolic and hormone disorders (for examples, kidney disease, hyperthyroidism), cancers (for example, lymphoma), reactions to drugs, interruptions in bile flow (cholestasis) from liver disease, and diseases of the blood (for example, polycythemia rubra vera). Itching is common with allergic reactions. Itching can also result from insect stings and bites such as mosquito or flea bites.
Infections and infestations of the skin are another cause of itch. Genital itching, which may accompany burning and pain, in men and women can occur as a result of genital infections such as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Vaginal itching is sometimes referred to as feminine itching, and sexually transmitted diseases can also cause anal itching. Vaginal yeast infections are another cause of vaginal itching. Other common infectious causes of itch include a fungal infection of the crotch (tinea cruris) commonly known as jock itch, psoriasis, and ringworm of the body (tinea corporis). Another type of parasitic infection resulting in itch is the so-called swimmer's itch. Swimmer's itch, also called cercarial dermatitis, is a skin rash caused by an allergic reaction to infection with certain parasites of birds and mammals that are released from infected snails in fresh and saltwater. Itch may also result from skin infestation by body lice, including head lice and pubic lice. Scabies is a highly contagious skin condition caused by an infestation by the itch mite Sarcoptes scabiei that is known to cause an intense itch that is particularly severe at night.