What Are the Causes of Excessive Itchy Skin?
Many conditions can cause itchy skin. Physicians look at certain criteria to help determine the cause, including whether the itching is localized or general and whether it's accompanied by other symptoms, including: redness, bumps, blisters, spots or scaly or dry, cracked skin. MayoClinic.com recommends seeking medication attention if you have experienced itching for more than two weeks or if it's uncomfortable enough to distract you from work or interrupt your sleep. This is especially important if the itching is generalized and you are also experiencing fatigue, weight loss, changes in bowel or urinary function or fever.
Xerosis, or dry skin, causes most cases of itchy skin, also called pruritis. Dry skin can stem from aging, washing too frequently or with hot water or harsh cleansers, dry weather and the use of forced-air heating and air conditioning. Moisturizing and bathing less frequently, with milder cleansers, and in warm rather than hot water can help dry itchy skin.
Allergies and Sensitivities
Skin can be sensitive to fabrics, cleansers and everyday chemicals that may cause itching. Itchy skin can also indicate an allergic reaction to foods, cosmetics, plants, pets and over-the-counter and prescription drugs and supplements.
Insects, Parasites and Fungi
Insect stings and bites can contribute to itchy skin, as can skin parasites such as pinworms or head, body or public lice. Fungal infections such as athlete's foot, candida, jock itch and ringworm are also characterized by itchy skin. Itchy skin caused by insects, parasites and fungi is usually localized and often accompanied by identifiable marks.
Itchy skin can be a sign of several serious diseases including kidney failure, liver disease with jaundice, hepatitis, celiac disease, thyroid disease, cancer, chicken pox and measles. Except for cases of chicken pox and measles, itchy skin related to these diseases is usually generalized rather than localized, and the skin typically looks normal except for any redness or marks associated with scratching.
Itchy skin is one symptom of iron-deficiency anemia, a condition usually related to inadequate dietary iron intake, an inability to absorb dietary iron or blood loss, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Many women complain of itchy skin during pregnancy, especially in the stomach, breast, thigh and upper arm regions. This usually subsides after delivery.
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