Lifestyle & Health : Causes of skin itching
Marie is a 45-year-old who has been experiencing unusual and recurring itching of her skin for several weeks.
She used to suffer from eczema but doesn't see a rash. Sometimes her body just feels itchy and her hands feel 'weird', like her fingers are slightly tingling inside gloves, and her back and toes feel like something is biting her.
She has been taking medication for high blood pressure for several months now.
She also uses arthritis medication for an even longer time and did not experience any problems before this.
She is taking an antihistamine prescribed by her doctor, but sometimes it doesn't work.
A generalised body itch, also called pruritus, can have several causes including:
• Chronic diseases
- Dry skin
- Stress, anxiety
- Contact dermatitis
- Other emotional problems
- Disorders of the liver or kidneys
- Blood diseases
- Bed bugs
- Pin worms
- Reactions to drugs
- Diabetes mellitus
An itch is an irritation in the skin that elicits the urge to scratch. Itches can be limited to one area or, as is the case for Marie, it can be generalised, occurring all over the body.
With some medical conditions, itching is usually worse at night-time. An itch can be very difficult to describe and Marie has made a good effort.
Typically, itching is described as a sensation of something crawling over the skin. Itching can be intense and localised in one area at the same time.
At times, the skin can feel dry, leathery or even scaly, depending on the cause.
Dry skin (xerosis) is a common cause of itchy skin seen more commonly in people working for long hours in air conditioned spaces, or in people who wash and bathe too much.
A drug reaction is also another cause of widespread itching.
Marie needs to return to see her doctor or get a second opinion. There is a cause for her prolonged generalised body itch and this must be discovered to resolve her problem.
Perhaps she is experiencing an allergic reaction to some medication she is using, which may need to be discontinued.
To discover this, she will need to see her doctor to try and work out which medication is possibly causing the problem (if she is taking more than one) while ensuring that her high blood pressure and arthritis remain under control.
Oral antihistamine tablets and antihistamine rubs taken orally and applied regularly may help control the problem.
Topical anaesthetic creams and steroidal ointments also reduce itching, and sometimes oral corticosteroid medication will need to be prescribed.
For the time being, avoid hot showers and use small amounts of possible skin irritants like soap. Apply moisturiser and cool lotions and creams throughout the day.
Keep cool (not cold) to decrease skin dryness. Avoid applying perfumes or use fabric softeners which may irritate the skin, and wear cool, loose clothing.
Marie, please schedule a visit to your doctor about this generalised itching very soon!
PO BOX 1731