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Itchy skin or pruritus is an uncomfortable condition caused by allergies, psoriasis, certain skin conditions, insect bite, eczema, and cirrhosis. It could also be linked to serious health conditions like diabetes, lymphoma, anemia, and kidney disease.
Studies have shown that pruritus affects 23 to 44 million people in the United States. Pruritus can affect anyone, regardless of age, but it is common among the elderly and people with conditions like seasonal allergies and hay fever.
A report from the NEA (National Eczema Association) shows that most people suffering from pruritus have difficulty sleeping. This, thus, will make them anxious and depressed.
Categories of Itching
Doctors categorize pruritus based on its severity and causes. It may be classified as mild if it is caused by an insect bite or eczema. Pruritus may be regarded as severe if it has symptoms (prevents one from sleeping, affect the whole body, and fever) that doesn’t improve after two weeks.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Itching
Below are some of the symptoms associated with pruritus.
- Scaly patches
- Cracked skin
- Scratch marks
Diagnosis of Itching
To determine if you have pruritus, your doctor will ask about your medical history, the symptoms you are experiencing, and carry out a physical exam. Below are a few other tests that can diagnose the condition.
Here a sample of the skin will be collected and tested in a lab. A skin biopsy can reveal if the condition is caused by an infection.
This is done to determine if the itching is a result of an allergic reaction.
During this test, a thyroid scan will be used to examine the position, size, and shape of your thyroid gland. Doctors usually recommend this test because thyroid abnormalities can cause itching.
This is done to check for the presence of enlarged lymph nodes.
How to Treat Itching
Your doctor may recommend the following if you are diagnosed with pruritus.
Anti-depressants like Prozac, doxepin, and sertraline can help ease chronic itching. You may have to take these medications for a couple of weeks before they can fully address the itching.
Creams and Ointments
If the condition is severe, your doctor may ask you to do the following in the evening.
- Bath with warm water
- Apply triamcinolone on your skin while it is still wet.
- Wear something loose and comfortable
However, if the itching is mild, your health care practitioner may suggest applying medicated ointment or anti-itching cream on the affected area. Your doctor may also be asked to cover the affected area with a clean cloth. This will help ensure that your skin absorbs the ointment.
Here your skin will be exposed to a special type of light. Your doctor may recommend this treatment if you can’t take oral medications. Keep in mind that you may need several sessions to get the condition under control.
How to Manage Itching?
Here is some alternative treatment for itching skin. Consult your doctor before trying them.
Menthol has a cooling effect and can provide quick relief to itching. A study conducted in 2012 shows that peppermint oil, which is rich in menthol, can address itchy skin.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is loaded with acetic acid, which is a natural antiseptic. A report from the NPF (National Psoriasis Foundation) shows that apple cider vinegar can help address mild to severe itching.
To get the most out of it, you should dilute it with water (1 to 1 ratio).
This treatment should only be used if the affected area isn’t broken or injured.
Cool the affected area
As can be seen from a report by the AAD (American Academy of Dermatology,) applying a wet cloth or ice pack can help relieve some of the symptoms of itching.
Colloidal oat is perfect for addressing itching, as it is rich in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties.
A study conducted in 2015 found that colloidal oatmeal can help reduce itching, dryness, and scaling.
Colloidal oatmeal is a key ingredient in many lotions and creams on the market. You can choose to opt for them or use the fine ground colloidal oatmeal powder.
- When should I seek medical attention? You should consult your doctor if the itching doesn’t improve after a couple of weeks and if it prevents you from carrying out your daily activities.
- What causes itching? Below are some of the main causes of itching.
- Insect bite
- Irritating chemicals
- Dry skin
Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!