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How can I get rid of itching?

Friday, 25 April 2008
Answered by: Prof. Jayakar Thomas
Senior Consultant Dermatologist
Kanchi Kamakoti Childs Trust Hospital
Chennai
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Q. I am a 34 years old female suffering from itching all over my body for the last six to seven months. The itching sensation starts from head and then spreads all over the body up to legs. When the itching becomes unbearable, I take anti-allergic medicines and get relief for two days. However, it is only temporary and severe itching starts again. I thought this problem is due to change in weather but now it has become intolerable. Please help.

A.  Itching can be caused by many conditions. Probably the most common cause of itch is psychological, that is, due to stress, anxiety, etc. Dry skin is another frequent cause of itch. Many people also report sunburn itch following prolonged exposure to UV radiation from the sun. Other causes include metabolic and endocrine disorders (for example, liver or kidney disease, hyperthyroidism), cancers (for example, lymphoma), reactions to drugs, and diseases of the blood (for example, polycythaemia vera). Itching is common with allergic reactions. Itching can also result from insect stings and bites such as from mosquito or flea bites. Infections and infestations of the skin are another cause of itch. Common infectious causes of itch include a fungal infection of the crotch (tinea cruris) commonly known as jock itch, as well as vaginal itching and/or anal itching from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or other types of infections. Itching usually prompts scratching, which can sometimes lead to a vicious itch-scratch cycle. The best way to allow irritated skin to heal is to stop scratching it. However, will power often is not enough since the urge to scratch can be compelling. Here are some general measures to help control itch, regardless of the cause. Cold applications: Because cold and itch travel along the same nerve fibres, cold sensation can jam the circuits and deaden itch. Anti-itch creams and lotions: Look for over-the-counter (OTC) remedies with these - camphor, menthol, phenol, pramoxine, diphenhydramine, and benzocaine (or one of the other -caine anaesthetics) as ingredients. If home treatment isn't helping, or you notice that scratching is affecting the skin being scratched (infection, lichenification, or pigmentation), or the itch is disturbing your sleep, you should consult a doctor to ascertain why you're itching. A doctor can also prescribe stronger cortisone-based creams (for eczemas and allergies) and prescription-grade antihistamines, if necessary, or treat the underlying condition that is causing the itch.

A.  Itching can be caused by many conditions. Probably the most common cause of itch is psychological, that is, due to stress, anxiety, etc. Dry skin is another frequent cause of itch. Many people also report sunburn itch following prolonged exposure to UV radiation from the sun. Other causes include metabolic and endocrine disorders (for example, liver or kidney disease, hyperthyroidism), cancers (for example, lymphoma), reactions to drugs, and diseases of the blood (for example, polycythaemia vera). Itching is common with allergic reactions. Itching can also result from insect stings and bites such as from mosquito or flea bites. Infections and infestations of the skin are another cause of itch. Common infectious causes of itch include a fungal infection of the crotch (tinea cruris) commonly known as jock itch, as well as vaginal itching and/or anal itching from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or other types of infections. Itching usually prompts scratching, which can sometimes lead to a vicious itch-scratch cycle. The best way to allow irritated skin to heal is to stop scratching it. However, will power often is not enough since the urge to scratch can be compelling. Here are some general measures to help control itch, regardless of the cause. Cold applications: Because cold and itch travel along the same nerve fibres, cold sensation can jam the circuits and deaden itch. Anti-itch creams and lotions: Look for over-the-counter (OTC) remedies with these - camphor, menthol, phenol, pramoxine, diphenhydramine, and benzocaine (or one of the other -caine anaesthetics) as ingredients. If home treatment isn't helping, or you notice that scratching is affecting the skin being scratched (infection, lichenification, or pigmentation), or the itch is disturbing your sleep, you should consult a doctor to ascertain why you're itching. A doctor can also prescribe stronger cortisone-based creams (for eczemas and allergies) and prescription-grade antihistamines, if necessary, or treat the underlying condition that is causing the itch.

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