Itching skin

Understanding Itching Skin

Itching skin, otherwise known as pruritus, can be an extremely persistent and irritating condition. It is also surprisingly common, and can affect both adults and children. In this article, we'll explore the symptoms, causes and treatments of itchy skin.

What Are the Symptoms of Itchy Skin?

Itchy skin can vary in intensity from mild to severe. Commonly, the affected area will become red and/or inflamed, and may be rough or scaly. In extreme instances, the skin may be so itchy that it causes significant disruption to day-to-day activities, sleep and quality of life.

What Causes Itchy Skin?

Itchy skin can have many causes, including:

  • Contact dermatitis – caused by coming into contact with an irritant, such as detergents, soaps, fabrics, jewellery and perfumes
  • Allergic reactions – caused by coming into contact with an allergen, such as pet hair, pollen, dust or certain foods
  • Infections – such as scabies, thrush, ringworm and impetigo
  • Medical conditions – such as atopic eczema, psoriasis and thyroid problems
  • Stress
  • Certain medications
  • Skin dryness or dehydration

How Is Itchy Skin Treated?

The treatment for itchy skin will depend on the underlying cause, and may include one or more of the following:

  • Oral or topical medications, such as antihistamines, corticosteroids or antibiotics
  • Bathing in medicated and/or moisturising products
  • Applying cool compresses to the affected area
  • Avoiding contact with any known triggers or allergens
  • Applying moisturisers regularly, and avoiding drying soaps
  • Managing stress levels

When to See a Doctor

If your itchy skin does not respond to over-the-counter treatments, or your symptoms are having a large effect on your life, you should speak to your doctor. It is important to seek medical advice as soon as possible so that the correct treatment can be prescribed.