An itch is an irritation of the skin that causes an individual to want to scratch. Itches are a problem that everyone experiences at some point in their lives and is either localized to one particular area of the body or could be all over or in several places on the body. In some cases, the itching could be worse at night. The medical term for itching is pruritus.
A generalized itch, occurring over the entire body, is much more difficult to treat than a localized itch.
Additionally, keep in mind that an itch can occur with or without lesions on the skin. An itch that is accompanied by a lesion or other visible abnormality on the skin should definitely be evaluated by a doctor, or possibly a dermatologist, since the issue is most likely a condition requiring specific medical care.
Some Facts about Itching
- Pruritus is the medical term for itching.
- Some of the main causes of itching are: bites/stings, infections, sun exposure, dry skin, infestations or chronic diseases.
- You can get some relief from anti-itch creams that contain phenol, menthol, camphor, diphenhydramine, benzocaine, or pramoxine.
- In some cases, you may need a corticosteroid to get relief from itching.
- In order to avoid causing the condition to get worse or breaking the skin and causing infections, it’s best to keep yourself from scratching.
- If you experience persistent itching or it gets worse, or you have skin lesions appear, consider consulting with a healthcare professional.
Signs and Symptoms of Itching
Depending on what is causing your itching, there could be some signs and symptoms present.
Most commonly, findings include skin lesions such as redness, bumps, rash, or blisters.
Dry skin is one of the common causes of itching. Skin itch can lead to skin tears as a result of scratching too hard or too much.
Less commonly, generalized itching is a result of more serious chronic medical conditions, for example, liver disease.
If itch is a result of an underlying medical condition, you are less likely to have a change in skin appearance.
Just like with any other medical condition, your doctor will do a thorough exam and take a careful medical history in order to diagnose the cause of your itch.
In some cases, the cause will be obvious, such as sunburn or dry skin. However, blood tests or imaging tests could be necessary to identify causes such as chronic systemic conditions or diseases.
If you have a skin condition that is responsible for your itch, the doctor may wish to do a biopsy or scraping in order to identify the condition.
However, you should know that most of the time common skin ailments and rashes will have an appearance that could lead to the correct diagnosis without all of that.
Tips to Deal with Itching
If you have ever had a case of severe itching, you know that it can be extremely uncomfortable.
Whether it was a result of a bug bite or irritation of your skin due to poison ivy, severe itching can keep you from sleeping and can have an impact on your sanity.
However, take a deep breath. There really are some ways that you can stop the itching and get some rest.
First of all, you must determine what is causing your itching. There is a variety of medical conditions that can result in itching of the skin.
If your itch is intolerable and you don’t know what is causing it or if there is a rash or other skin lesion with it, you should see a physician before trying to treat it on your own at home. Once you have determined the cause, you can try some of the following DIY treatments.
OTC Hydrocortisone Cream
Applying a 1 percent solution of hydrocortisone cream several times a day can stop the itching. It keeps control of the underlying inflammatory reaction of the skin.
Unlike oral or prescription topical steroids, you will not experience any side effects due to the fact that the concentration is so much lower with the OTC creams.
Use Ice Packs
You already know that ice has a numbing effect. Additionally, it can help reduce any swelling associated with the itching.
You can use a professional, first aid ice pack that you can get in the pharmacy of
your local grocery or drug store, or you can simply use a package of frozen veggies. Apply it to the areas that are itching and soon, you’ll have relief from the itch.
If you’re experiencing a severe case of itching, you can relieve your symptoms and get some sleep by taking Benadryl.
All you need is one tablet of 25 milligrams. Since it can cause sleepiness and disorientation, it’s best if you only take Benadryl at night or when you’re not planning on going anywhere.
Vicks Vapor Rub
This particular treatment may not have the greatest smell, but it can be very effective in treating severe itching.
Simply apply it full strength from the jar to the area that is itching- and breathe a sigh of relief.
Oatmeal or Cornstarch Bath
Oatmeal and Cornstarch are known to relieve itching. Simply add some to your bath water to get some quick itch relief.
You can also purchase lotions and body washes that are oatmeal based that you can use to relieve your symptoms of itching.
Of course, this one is much easier said than done, right? However, you should know that the more you scratch, the more likely the area is to continue itching because you’re causing more irritation.
Try out some of the above remedies to get relief from itching and then keep yourself distracted to keep your hands away from the itchy areas. Break the itch/scratch cycle.