Itchiness, itchy skin or pruritus often comes with a root cause. Once the root cause is identified, treatment of it becomes quite easy. Several health conditions like celiac disease, kidney failure and liver disease among others can produce skin itching. When a disease causes the itching symptoms, the symptoms often affect the whole body. Skin problems like rashes and hives, however, can cause skin itching albeit affecting only localized areas of the skin.
- Dehydrated/Dry Skin – The skin becomes dry when the sebaceous glands of the skin produce less oil (sebum) to moisturize the skin. Dehydration of the skin, on the other hand, is when the skin does not contain enough moisture to make it supple. Enough oil and moisture is needed by the skin to make it comfortable, smooth and soft. The lack of water and oil in the skin will make it crack, tear and itch. Your skin can get dehydrated from exposure to harsh natural environments like desert climates or from man-made environmental factors like cold air from air-conditioners. Your skin can become dry even by taking hot baths and utilizing soap that is absorbed by the skin.
- Skin Conditions – Skin inflammation oftentimes called dermatitis or eczema is characterized by itchy, swollen and red skin. When left untreated for a long time, this condition can cause the skin to become leathery and thick. Dermatitis is suspected to be genetically acquired and can develop in one year old babies. Some experts have observed that individuals suffering from dermatitis usually have a family background of asthma, allergies or hay fever. Another skin problem that causes itching is psoriasis. Psoriasis accelerates the life of the skin, making it die earlier than normal. Typical symptoms of psoriasis include pain and itching.
- Irritants – As the name suggests irritants are products that irritate the skin making the skin feel itch. Typical irritants can include detergents, waxes, soaps and harsh chemicals like acetone or benzene. These irritants strip away the oil on the skin surface that protects the skin making the skin dry and itchy.
- Allergens – These are substances that trigger an allergic reaction in people. When the allergy affects the skin, itching or pruritus often occurs. Allergen exposure can develop allergy in people over time which means that the first few exposures will not trigger an allergic reaction. When the allergen has been properly validated in the blood cell genes of the person, each exposure to the allergen will then elicit allergic responses in the person. Allergens that typically trigger an allergic response on people can include jewelry, preservatives, poison ivy and wool among others.
- Insects – Small insect parasites like mites and lice can cause skin itchiness. Lice are wingless insect parasites that drink the blood of a person and can easily infect other people through contact. Lice often reside in human hair (head and pubic hair) and are often transmitted on people when they share or use combs, head accessories or helmets with people who have lice. Lice movements in the hair can cause skin itching wherever they reside and whenever they move. Mites use the skin to lay their eggs in. They build holes in the skin and lay their eggs there. They also can be passed from person to person through direct contact or from contact with items ridden with these creatures. These insects’ bites are quite itchy and the bite leaves a skin rash on the bitten area.
- Nerve disorders – Diseases affecting the nervous system like shingles, pinched nerves, diabetes mellitus or multiple sclerosis can cause itching symptoms.
- Pregnancy – During pregnancy women may often experience itching sensations in parts like their arms, breasts, thighs and abdomen. If they had unresolved dermatitis before their pregnancy, their dermatitis condition might get worse during pregnancy.
Dr. Yelena Pakula is a licensed acupuncture doctor and the medical director of Vita-Health Acupuncture and Wellness Center in Pembroke Pines, FL.