Pruritus is a symptom of intense itching that is caused by underlying diseases with an urge to scratch. The severe and stubborn itching can result to inflammation of the skin and can be weakening and unbearable. Systemic diseases, skin infections, dry skin and other disorders of the skin can result to pruritus. People with asthma, allergies, eczema, diabetes, hay fever and AIDS are susceptible to pruritus.
The itchy skin can look normal or can become red or rough or can have blisters or bumps. Itchy skin can happen in any areas of the body and usually on the arm or leg or the whole body.
- Dry or cracked skin
- Bumps, spots or blisters
- Leathery or scaly texture to the skin.
Seek medical help when itchiness lasts more than 2 weeks and does not improve or affects the entire body. Development of other symptoms such as fever, redness of the skin, extreme tiredness, difficulty in sleeping, changes in the bowel movement or urinary frequency.
Causes of pruritus
- Itchy skin can be caused by dry skin which is due to environmental factors such as warm or cold environments with low humidity, prolonged period of using an air conditioner or central heating unit and washing or bathing too much.
- Itchy or irritated skin can be caused by skin conditions and rashes such as eczema or dermatitis, scabies, psoriasis, lice, hives and chickenpox. It usually affects specific areas that will result to irritation on the skin, redness, bumps and blisters.
- Internal diseases such as malabsorption of wheat or celiac disease, liver disease, deficiency in iron, kidney failure, thyroid problems and cancers.
- Nerve disorders
- Irritation and allergic reactions
- Drugs such as antibiotics, antifungal medication or narcotic pain medications
Treatment and home remedies
- Apply moisturizing cream on the skin such as Cetaphil at least 1-2 times every day.
- Apply the prescribed anti-itch cream or lotion on the affected area such as 1% hydrocortisone to lessen the itchiness. Menthol, camphor or calamine also helps with the condition.
- Avoid scratching the area and cover it to prevent scratching. Keep the nails shorts and wear gloves at night.
- Apply a cool and wet compress which causes jamming of the circuits and reduces itchiness. Cold application can be done by running cool tap water on the affected area or placing a cool cloth or wash cloth on the affected skin. Another alternative is taking a cool shower or bath mixed with colloidal oatmeal to relieve the itchiness. A cold compress can be prepared by placing ice cubes in a plastic bag and then wrap with a towel before placing on the affected area to lessen itchiness.
- Take a lukewarm bath in a bathtub filled with lukewarm water. You can mix it with baking soda, uncooked oatmeal or use colloidal oatmeal which is finely grounded oatmeal.
- Wear a smooth-textured cotton clothing to prevent any irritation on the skin.
- Use mild soaps that do not contain dyes and perfumes. Make sure to rinse the soap properly off the body. After washing, apply moisturizers to help protect the skin.
- Avoid being stressed to help prevent the condition from getting worse.