What is itchy skin/pruritis?

Itchy skin is an uncomfortable, irritating sensation that makes you want to scratch. Also known as pruritus, itchy skin can be caused or worsened by dry skin. It’s common in older adults, as skin tends to become drier with age. 13

Depending on the cause of your itchy skin, it may appear normal, red, rough or bumpy. Repeated scratching can cause raised thick areas of skin that might bleed or become infected. 13

Symptoms

You may have itchy skin over certain small areas, such as on an arm or leg, or over your whole body. Itchy skin can occur without any other noticeable changes on the skin. Or it may be associated with:

    • Redness
    • Bumps, spots or blisters
    • Dry, cracked skin
    • Leathery or scaly skin 13

Sometimes itchiness lasts a long time and can be intense. As you rub or scratch the area, it gets itchier. And the more it itches, the more you scratch. Breaking this itch-scratch cycle can be difficult.

If the condition persists for three months despite treatment, see a dermatologist to be evaluated for skin disease and an internist to be evaluated for other diseases. 13

What causes itchy skin/pruritis

Itchy skin is an uncomfortable, irritating sensation that makes you want to scratch.

What causes itchy skin?

Causes of itchy skin include:

  • Skin conditions. Many skin conditions itch, including dry skin (xerosis), eczema (dermatitis), psoriasis, scabies, burns, scars and insect bites.
  • Internal diseases. Itchy skin can be a symptom of an underlying illness. These include liver disease, kidney failure, iron deficiency and anemia.
  • Nerve disorders. Conditions that affect the nervous system can cause itching.
  • Psychiatric diseases. Examples of psychiatric diseases that can cause itchy skin are anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression.
  • Irritation and allergic reactions. Wool, chemicals, soaps and other substances can irritate the skin and cause itching.
  • Pregnancy. During pregnancy, some women experience itchy skin. 13

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