What causes itchy skin? – Symptoms and causes

what cause itchy skin

Itchy skin, medically called pruritus, is a common skin issue. The causes of itchy skin may vary–depending on several factors. It is characterized by a steady urge to scratch the skin, which can lead to discomfort and inflammation. 

While occasional skin itching is harmless, persistent, or intense, itching may imply an underlying health issue requiring medical attention. There are various significant triggers for itchy skin, such as:

1. Dry Skin: 

One of the most common itchy skin causes is skin dryness, which environmental elements, including cold weather or low humidity levels, can impact. Excessive bathing or harsh soaps can strip the skin of natural oils, leading to dry skin and itchiness.

2. Allergic Reactions: 

Allergic reactions to certain materials or irritants can cause itching. Common allergens include: 

  • Pollens
  • Pet dander
  • Certain foods
  • Insect bites
  • And medicinal drugs 

In a few instances, contact with these allergens can trigger a localized allergic reaction known as contact dermatitis.

3. Skin Conditions: 

Itchy skin may be a symptom of numerous skin conditions, which include: 

  • Eczema
  • Psoriasis
  • Scabies
  • Hives
  • Or fungal infections like athlete’s foot

These situations often involve inflammation and can cause chronic itching. If you are observing any of these skin issues.

4. Internal Diseases: 

Itchy skin may result from underlying health conditions, including: 

  • Liver diseases
  • Kidney problems
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Or specific blood disorders

5. Nerve Disorders: 

Some neurological conditions, like sclerosis or shingles, chronic diseases, can cause nerve harm that triggers itching. Other sensory abnormalities, such as tingling or numbness, may accompany this itching.

6. Psychological Factors: 

  • Pressure, tension, and different emotional factors can contribute to the sensation of itching or worsen current itching. The mechanisms linking psychological factors to itching aren’t well understood, but evidence indicates there is a connection.
  • Identifying the underlying cause of itchy skin is vital to determining the most suitable treatment. Try to find medical recommendations if itching persists, worsens, or is observed together with other worrying symptoms. 
  • Dermatologists and other medical specialists can conduct a thorough evaluation, perform tests if needed, and recommend suitable remedies or lifestyle adjustments to eliminate the skin itching problem.

7. Chemical Reactions:

In modern life, we come in contact with chemicals that can unwittingly cause harm to the skin. One of the first reactions to contact with these chemicals can result in itching. Common chemicals may include:

  • Floor waxes or floor cleaners
  • Toilet cleaners
  • Disinfectants
  • All-purpose cleaners
  • Furniture waxes
  • Drain cleaners
  • Antibacterial cleaners

8. Cosmetic Reactions:

Some cosmetics have chemicals or ingredients that are harmful to sensitive skin types and might be a cause of making the skin itchy, inflamed, or flaky. If this is the case, promptly discontinuing the use of the offending cosmetics can speed up recovery of the affected skin. 

  • Routinely used cosmetics may be the culprit in those with sensitive skin 
  • Allergic reactions may occur after use of certain cosmetic products because they contain ingredients you have become sensitized to from past use
  • Sensitivity to fragrances or dyes present in cosmetics can also result in itchy skin

9. Parasites or Insect Bites:

Various people may face severe skin infections or reactions because of having sensitivity toward parasites or insect bites. These may include: 

  • Mosquito bites may sometimes cause a prolonged irritation or itchiness that comes with bumps on the skin.
  • Bedbugs are responsible for severe skin itching issues. When sleeping at night, these bugs that live in one’s bed feast and you are left with red spots on the back and front parts of the body.
  • Flea bites may also result in uncontrollable itching problems. Flea bites can be noticed by bumps that appear in a linear array. One might face continuous itchy skin if not managed promptly.

10. Fungal or Bacterial Infections:

  • Fungi or bacteria can also be responsible for severe itchy skin. Fungal infections are commonly called ringworm and depending on the location on the body can be known as athlete’s foot or jock itch (if located in the groin).
  • Bacterial infections caused by staphylococcus or streptococcus are another common cause of itchy skin. Impetigo is the name of one of the most common superficial bacterial skin infections. 
  • Fungus and yeast are synonymous. A yeast infection in the vagina may also lead to itchy skin. 

11. Old Age

  • Most people face skin issues like dry skin when aging. 
  • As one grows older, the skin produces less natural natural oils and moisture, which causes the skin to become dry. In this condition, old people might experience itchy skin because of dryness.
  • When you get older, the skin’s ability to remain firm starts getting affected, which can also cause dry skin, resulting in itchiness.

What are the noticeable symptoms of itchy skin?

Here is detailed information regarding some significant symptoms associated with itchy skin.

1. Skin redness: 

Itchy skin often accompanies redness or rashes. Constant itching, scratching and irritation can cause this redness. The affected area may seem infected and show small bumps, blisters, or hives.

2. Dryness and flaking: 

Dry skin is itchy skin, and affected skin can have flakes or scales visible. This is common in conditions like eczema or psoriasis. Your healthcare provider or dermatologist may suggest using a skincare routine solution to keep the skin hydrated.

3. Intense itching: 

The persistent urge to scratch is the most prominent symptom of itchy skin. Itching can vary from slight to intense and worsen with scratching or exposure to specific triggers.

4. Skin lesions or sores: 

Non-stop scratching due to itchiness can cause open sores or lesions on the skin. These can grow to be inflamed and prolong the healing process.

5. Swelling or edema: 

Occasionally, itchy skin may cause localized swelling (edema) in the affected areas. 

6. Different skin colors: 

Prolonged itching can change the skin color, making it appear darker or lighter than the surrounding skin.

7. Sleep disturbances: 

Itchy skin can drastically disrupt your sleep routine, leading to trouble falling or staying asleep. This could, in the end, cause fatigue or daytime sleepiness.

Treating Itchy Skin

It’s vital to try and find the underlying cause of itchy skin. Proper evaluation and treatment may likely require a healthcare expert. They can help identify suitable treatment plans customized for you. Baseline advice usually includes avoiding products with scent and color and utilizing ingredients that do not further dry out sensitive irritated skin. The doctor may advise you to keep the cleanse with the help of a non-soap, fragrance free daily shampoo and body wash or will likely advise keeping the skin moisturized several times a day with a hypoallergenic moisturizing cream.


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Dr. Eddie Valenzuela is an award winning pediatrician and the founder and CEO of Pediatric Solutions, LLC.

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Can food cause itching at night?

Yes, especially if you are allergic to any food item, then consuming them can cause intense itching at night. Some of the most common culprits are peanuts, shellfish, soy, and eggs.

Can diabetes cause itching?

Itching directly is not associated with diabetes but if you are experiencing high blood sugar you are more likely to experience dry skin. This dry skin can lead to itching.

What are the most common causes for skin to itch?

Some of the most common causes of itching are:
1. Eczema
2. Dry skin
3. Insect bites
4. Hives
5. Internal diseases

Can cancer cause itchy skin?

Some cancers can cause itchy skin such as skin, liver, bile duct, and blood-related cancers.

Can home remedies help with itching?

Yes, there are a few home remedies that can soothe your itchy skin such as taking and oatmeal bath or applying a cold compress.

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