What is it?

Pruritus means itch. Itch is an unpleasant sensation on the skin that provokes the desire to rub or scratch the area to obtain relief. Itch can cause discomfort and frustration; in severe cases it can lead to disturbed sleep, anxiety and depression. Constant scratching to obtain relief can damage the skin (excoriation, lichenification) and reduce its effectiveness as a major protective barrier. Pruritus is often a symptom of an underlying disease process such as a skin problem, a systemic disease, or abnormal nerve impulses.

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Additional names

This group contains additional names:
- Lichenification and Lichen Simplex Chronicus
- Neurodermatitis
- Prurigo nodularis
- Dermatitis Factitia
- Prurigo
- Pruritic rash

Signs & symptoms

Itchy skin can affect small areas, such as the scalp, an arm or a leg, or the whole body. It can occur without any other noticeable changes on the skin, or it may be associated with:
- Redness
- Scratch marks
- Bumps, spots or blisters
- Dry, cracked skin
- Leathery or scaly patches
Sometimes itchiness lasts a long time and can be intense.

Diagnosis

Searching for the cause of the itch can take time and involve a physical exam and questions about medical history. If the doctor thinks your itchy skin is the result of a medical condition, you might have tests, including:
- Blood test: A complete blood count can provide evidence of an internal condition causing your itch, such as anemia.
- Tests of thyroid, liver and kidney function: Liver or kidney disorders and thyroid abnormalities, such as hyperthyroidism, may cause itching.
- Chest X-rays: A chest X-ray can show if you have enlarged lymph nodes, which can go along with itchy skin.

Treatment

Itchy skin treatment focuses on removing the cause of the itch. Controlling itchy skin symptoms can be challenging and may require long-term therapy. Options include:
- Corticosteroid creams and ointments
- Oral medications. Antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft), and tricyclic antidepressants, such as doxepin, may be helpful in easing some types of chronic itch.
- Light therapy (phototherapy). Phototherapy involves exposing your skin to a specific type of light. This can be a good option for people who can't take oral drugs.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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