What makes my skin itch?

My skin gets itchy every once in a while for reasons I can’t explain. I have no skin disease and I’m not allergic to anything I know of. What could explain this and how do I treat it? Amanda

Dear Amanda,

The most common cause for itchy skin is dryness of the skin. Excess dryness can occur due to exposure to dust, hot sun, harsh cold weather, hot or long showers, not using any lubricating substance or using a moisturiser, which is not suitable, regular use of harsh soaps, use of nylon or woolen clothes, are some of the reasons. Drugs like diuretics, which are used to remove extra salt and water from the body, can cause dry and itchy skin as a side effect. Genetic factor is also present. It can be due to under activity of the thyroid gland, malnutrition, vitamin B complex deficiency. Few individuals get itchy skin due to stress.

Intermittent itching can be due to fungal infections. These occur due to dampness and cause flaky skin or white/grey patches. Itching is mild to severe, depending on the severity of the infection. People with reduced immunity like diabetic individuals, those with HIV/AIDS, have more severe and protracted infection. Psoriasis is a skin disorder, causing itchy skin. It occurs due to impaired immune reaction of the body and manifests as silvery plaques with flaking, more on the backside of the limbs and body. Both fungal infections and psoriasis are diagnosed by simple tests and are treatable.

Itching can be the only manifestation of allergy, which can be allergy to various body care products used, or food substances consumed.

Cure of the itching depends on cure of the underlying cause. Ointments containing camphor, menthol, diphenhydramine, benzocaine, corticoids, and etcetera, one or more of these substances brings relief in itching. If the problem is more severe, antihistaminic tablets can be taken.

Prevention lies in avoiding factors causing dryness and itching. A healthy balanced diet is useful in this regard. Mental and physical relaxation also helps. Avoid hot, prolonged showers and avoid strong soaps while taking a shower. After a shower, apply a suitable moisturising lotion all over, while the skin is still damp. Avoid nylon and synthetic clothing if skin is itchy. Some home remedies claim to provide relief in itchy skin. Bath water mixed with soda, applying milk and honey over the itchy part, local application of honey, local application of oils like lavender, sesame, almond or clove, are some of the home remedies which are useful.

A word of caution, even though the skin feels itchy, avoid scratching it, as this could introduce secondary bacterial infection, causing boils.  

 

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