Our body is covered by layers of thick protective shield; called the skin. Skin is an organ that is constantly exposed to the environment and its pollutants, subjecting it to potential risks of irritation. With so many things directly contacting the skin daily, skin infections are bound to happen. There are various types of skin infections that can arise and some can get very serious too. Off the various skin infections there are, itchy skin is one of the most common symptoms that can get extremely bothering and irritating. Itching can get serious when caused by allergies, disease, medicinal side effects or infections.
What is an itch?
In medical terms, itchy skin is defined as an irritating and uncontrollable sensation that makes one scratch till there is relief. Itching is also known as pruritus and generally requires external stimuli to start it. These stimuli include bugs, dust, hair, clothes and so on. Like the sensation of tickling, itching is also a defense mechanism the body uses to alert the brain of a potential threat. This threat could be a bug, a fungus, bacteria or anything that can cause an itchy reaction to the skin.
Apart from the external factors, certain internal illnesses could also be attributed to itching of the skin. Some of these diseases include: kidney or liver disease, skin rashes, allergies, and dermatitis.
What causes an itchy skin?
Itchiness can be on the entire body or pertaining to one small region of the body. There are varied causes that can lead to an itchy skin. From an insect bite to diabetes various reasons attribute to various forms of skin itching. Some of the common causes of itchy skin include:
- Dry skin: If the itchy area is only causing the itching sensation without any changes on the skin surface such as red bumps or any other symptoms, dry skin is the most like cause diagnosed. Dry skin usually occurs due to environmental factors such as hot or cold weather, dry climatic conditions without humidity, long-term exposure to air conditioning or heating, and excessive bathing or washing.
- Skin conditions and rashes: Many skin conditions can cause itching as a common symptom. Skin condition like eczema (dermatitis), psoriasis, scabies, lice, chickenpox and hives usually cause intense itching in the affected area. Itching generally affects specific areas of the body and is accompanied by other symptoms such as redness, irritation, soreness, bumps and blisters.
- Internal diseases: Internal disease such as liver disease, celiac disease which is also a sort of wheat allergy, kidney disease, anemia, iron deficiency, thyroid imbalances and cancers. In case of internal disease induced itching, normal the entire body is affected. The skin may appear normal but the scratching sensation occurs frequently.
- Nerve disorders: Certain medical conditions that impact the nervous system such as shingles, diabetes mellitus, diabetes mellitus and Multiple Sclerosis can lead to skin irritations that may result in itching of the skin.
- Irritations & allergic reactions: There are a number of substances that can irritate the skin to cause itching. Some of these include chemicals, fabrics like wool, harsh soaps and the like. In some cases substances such as poison ivy and cosmetics could cause a skin allergy to occur. Itching is also a common symptom of allergies relating to certain foods.
- Medication & Drugs: Sometimes itching could a possible reaction or a side effect to any drug such as an antibiotic or an antifungal drug. Narcotic pain medicines could also cause rashes and itching to occur.
- Pregnancy: Itching is commonly known to occur among pregnant women especially around areas like the abdomen, breasts, thighs and arms. This is because as the weight of the woman increases in pregnancy, the skin begins to stretch causing itching. Itchy conditions such as dermatitis could worsen in pregnant women.
Symptoms of itchy skin
Itchy skin can occur on small areas of the skin such has arms or legs or on the entire body. There could be changes along with the itching to help one notice a problem; however in some cases there may be no changes to see at all. Here are a few symptoms that may be associated with an itchy skin:
- Redness of the skin
- Painful Bumps, spots or blisters
- Dry, scaly or cracked skin
In some case the itchiness could last for a longer time and can get intense. As one rubs the surface of the skin, the condition could get worse making the itching increase considerably. It has been proven that continued scratching could damage the skin or cause an infection.
When to see a doctor
Not all itching is serious requiring medical attention. However in some cases when it causes irritation and the patient is constantly concerned with the itching, it is a rather better idea to see a doctor or a dermatologist if the itching:
- Continues more than two weeks with minimal improvement
- Gets severe and becomes constant; disturbing the patient from carrying out daily routines for disturbs sleep
- Is hard to explain
- Begins to spread and starts affecting the entire body
- Other symptoms like fatigue, weight loss, tiredness, fever, redness of the skin etc. begin to show up.
Natural remedies to treat itchy skin
Apart from the medications there are a number of home remedies that have proven efficacy in treating itchy skin. Some of the common ones are:
- Baking soda: This is one of the best ways to relieve itching at home. Add some baking soda, into warm bath. This is the best known remedy to remove all kinds of itchiness from the entire body. This method of treatment relieves itching that is the result of an allergic reaction, hives, dry skin, and more. Soak your body completely in this bath and allow the baking soda to have contact with the itchy area for at least 30 minutes for complete relief.
- Lemon Juice: Itching that is a result of the inflammation of the skin can be treated using a lemon. This is one of the most popular home remedies as lemon juice contains natural antiseptic that can reduce inflammation in no time. By squeezing a lemon, and applying the juice to the affected area, itching can be stopped in no time.
- Apple cider vinegar: Apple cider vinegar is a well-known kitchen ingredient that is rich in antiseptic, anti-itching, antifungal and antibacterial properties that can really help in getting rid of itching. Add two to three cups of apple cider vinegar to lukewarm bath water and soak in this water for around 15 to 30 mins. Dry skin thoroughly and follow up with a light moisturizer. Try to do this every day till the symptoms subside. To treat a local itch, apply apple cider vinegar on the affected area using a cotton ball. Allow it to get absorbed by the skin for atleast half an hour and then rinse off with lukewarm water.
- Aloe Vera: Aloe Vera is known as a miracle plant that is rich in anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal properties. It also contains vitamin E which is an excellent moisturizer that helps the skin stay hydrated and moisturized; thereby reducing itching. Extract the gel from one aloe vera leaf and apply the same on the area that is itching. Leave the gel on for 15 mins so that it is well absorbed by the skin and then rinse it off with lukewarm water. Follow this simple remedy once every day till the itching is completely resolved. Alternatively, make a paste by adding one tablespoon of aloe vera gel to two tablespoons of green clay and apply this paste on to the affected area. Allow the paste to dry on its own and rince it off with warm water.
- Holy Basil: Basil is useful herb that has its benefits in getting rid of itchy skin. Basil in fact is one herb that has a number of therapeutic and medicinal properties. Basil contains a high amount of eugenol, which is a potent essential oil and topical anesthetic. It also contains compounds of camphor and thymol that help in fighting itching. For the treatment, add one tablespoon of dried basil leaves to two cups of boiling water. Cover this water for a few minutes and after it cools down, apply the same on the affected area using a cloth or cotton ball. This solution can be transferred to a jar and saved for future use. Another easy way of using basil to treat skin itching is by crushing the basil leaves and rubbing them directly on the affected area and rinsing with lukewarm water.
- Peppermint oil: Peppermint oil has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, analgesic and soothing properties which help in bringing about relief from itching caused by dermatitis, scabies or stress. Drops of peppermint essential oil can be added to a bathtub filled with warm water. Add several drops of peppermint oil to a bathtub filled with lukewarm water. Allow the entire body to soak in this bath for half an hour and pat dry followed by a moisturizer. Peppermint oil can be diluted by mixing with carrier oils like coconut oil or olive oil and applied directly to the affected area for relief. There are a number of other remedies also that one can try to get relief from dry itchy skin.
Matt Bailey is a noted writer, content marketer and Social Strategist at FindaTopDoc.. Find a Best Doctor near you by Specialty and Insurance.