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Itching - a Common Symptom of Skin Disorder

Written by
Dr. Suvash Sahu
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.

Published on Jul 11, 2016 and last reviewed on Sep 07, 2018   -  2 min read



In this article, I have discussed various causes, types and management of itching.

Itching - a Common Symptom of Skin Disorder

Pruritus (itching) is the predominant symptom of inflammatory skin disease. It lacks precise definition and can best be defined indirectly as a sensation that leads to a desire to scratch.

Types of Itching:

  • Tickle sensation, which is a more akin to touch. It is very transient and easily relieved.
  • Physiological itch is a short-lived cutaneous response of sufficient intensity to provoke scratching, but not resulting in significant irritation of the skin.
  • Pathological itch occurs in a variety of primary and secondary skin disorders as well as in a number of systemic disorders resulting in intense cutaneous discomfort.
  • Alloknesis is a more persistent itching provoked by mechanical stimulation.

Causes of Generalized Pruritus:

1. Drug Ingestion:

Aspirin, Alcohol, Polymyxin, Morphine, Codeine, Scopolamine and D-tubocurarine.

2. Infestations:

Pediculosis corporis (skin disease from body lice), scabies, onchocerciasis (river blindness), ascariasis (small intestine infection) and ancylostomiasis (hookworm disease).

3. Malignancy:

Lymphoma, leukemia, multiple myeloma and other rare cancer types.

4. Metabolic and Endocrine Conditions:

Hyperthyroidism, Hypothyroidism, diabetes mellitus, chronic renal failure and obstructive biliary disease.

5. Pregnancy:

Itching can occur during pregnancy. If itching presents with a skin rash, then it is known as pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPP).

6. Psychogenic Pruritus:

Delusions of parasitosis. In this condition, the patient will have some false belief of parasitic infestation.

7. Hematologic Disorder:

Polycythemia vera, paraproteinemia and iron deficiency anemia.


The essential step to manage pruritus is to identify and treat the fundamental cause, either dermatological or systemic. Other helpful measures to get rid of itching are as follows.

  • Clothes and environment: Pruritus is temperature dependent. Wearing of light clothes, cool room temperature, use of light bedclothes and a cool shower before sleep, can alleviate pruritus.
  • Emollients: Pruritus due to dry skin, especially in the elderly can be relieved by the use of emollients like soft paraffin, moisturizing cream, oils, etc.
  • Antipruritics: There is no available effective and specific antipruritic drug. Role of sedative antihistamines to reduce itching in atopic skin is controversial.
  • Topical antihistamines and corticosteroids should not be used in the absence of visible signs of inflammation.
  • Topical Capsaicin has been found effective in limited disease.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants may be useful in some, especially the emotionally distressed patients.
  • Opioid receptor antagonists like Naloxone have shown some promise.
  • Specific therapies like parathyroidectomy and ultraviolet B (UVB) for cases of chronic renal failure and cholestyramine and UVB for pruritus secondary to liver disease have been found useful.

For furthermore intelligence information about itching, consult a dermatologist online -->


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Last reviewed at:
07 Sep 2018  -  2 min read


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