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What causes irritating itchy skin?

What causes irritating itchy skin?

19 September 2019

Last reveiewed on 19 September 2019 by Nikki Porges, a registered nurse in our Health at Hand team. She says...

I’m sorry to hear you're being troubled by this symptom. Itchy skin is an uncomfortable irritating sensation and can be made worse if you suffer from dry skin. For that reason we sometimes see more of this symptom in older people as skin tends to become drier as we age.

There are several reasons why skin can become irritated and itchy, with some of the most common being skin conditions such as eczema or dermatitis and also allergic reactions known as contact dermatitis where an outside allergen has come into contact with the skin. Outside allergens can be caused by things such various soap powders, liquids and shampoos just as a few examples. Often in these cases the itching is also accompanied by a skin rash, which you do not appear to have.

Itching  can also be caused  by an internal allergy, such as a reaction to foods that have been eaten or from medicines that are being taken.

Other causes can include internal issues such as thyroid problems liver or kidney problems, for example, and certain types of nerve disorders.

In some cases the cause of the itching cannot be found.

Many people find relief with self-care measures such as moisturising daily, using gentle cleansers and bathing with lukewarm water. Long-term relief requires identifying and treating the cause of itchy skin. Common treatments are medicated lotions, moist dressings and oral anti-itch medicines which your local pharmacist will be happy to discuss with you.

See your doctor if the itching lasts more than two weeks and doesn't improve with the self-care measures above or if it is severe and distracts you from your daily routines. Other indications to see your GP about this are if the itching prevents you from sleeping, affects your whole body and/or is accompanied by other signs and symptoms, such as extreme tiredness, weight loss, changes in bowel habits or urinary frequency, fever, or redness or yellowing of the skin

Your doctor should be able to diagnose the cause of the itching and suggest treatment for you. In the meantime you may find it helpful to try to avoid using biological soap powders, perfumed soaps talcs and washes, and to try wearing clothes made of natural fibres such as cotton.

We do hope you will find this information of use.

Answered by the Health at Hand team.

Further information

Itchy skin - NHS factsheet

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