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HomeHealth articlesitchy-skin-without-rashWhat Are the Causes Behind Itchy Skin Without a Rash?

A Skin Itch Without Visible Symptoms - Types, Causes, Treatment, and Contraindications

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Itchy skin most commonly occurs due to dryness and constant skin irritation. Read to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Dhepe Snehal Madhav

Published At April 6, 2023
Reviewed AtJanuary 30, 2024

Introduction

Itchy skin without a rash is frequently caused by severe skin dryness or environmental factors such as low humidity and hot or cold weather. Activities that dehydrate the skin, such as bathing in hot water can also cause this condition. A rash usually develops due to itchy skin; however, sometimes, extremely itchy skin may develop no rash. A persistent itch can also have a negative impact on the quality of life. It can cause sleep disruption, difficulty concentrating, and scratching until the skin bleeds. It is best to consult a dermatologist if the itchy skin problem is not resolved, leading to complications.

How Is Itching Classified?

Itching is distinguished from other cutaneous issues such as pain, touch, and warmth. Itching has been classified into four types:

1) Cutaneous - It is also known as proprioceptive itch and is caused by skin irritation.

2) Neuropathic - It is produced by an itch that appears anywhere along the afferent nerve route due to nervous system impairment in conditions such as:

  • Herpetic neuralgia.
  • Multiple sclerosis.
  • Brain tumors.

3) Neurogenic - It originates from the central nervous system. The exact mechanism is unknown.

4) Psychogenic - It has been observed in delusional states such as parasitophobia.

How Does Itching Occur?

A pruritogen is a mediator of itch that sends a large number of terminal branchings and C nerve fibers with a sluggish conduction velocity (0.5 m/s) to the dorsal horn of the spinal cord. These slow-conduction C fibers then proceed via the lateral spinothalamic tract to the thalamus and, finally, to the somatosensory cortex. The neural system contains this pathway, which the brain perceives as itching.

What Are the Causes of Itchy Skin?

1. Dryness - Itchy skin can be caused by extremely dry skin.

2. Bites From Insects - When a mosquito bites, the source of the itchy skin is usually evident, and the itch normally goes away soon.

3. Bed Bugs, Lice, and Mites - These are examples of pests that can cause long-lasting itching (scabies). The itch can be severe and inconvenient when bugs live on the skin or feed on it every night.

4. Itchy Skin Disease - The following are some of the skin disorders that can produce severe itching:

  • Hand-foot-and-mouth disease (HFMD).

  • Chickenpox.

  • Folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicles).

  • Hives (skin rash due to an irritant).

  • Dermatitis atopy (dry, itchy, and inflamed skin).

  • Eczema dyshidrotic (small blisters on palms and soles).

  • Dermatitis seborrhea ( itchy red patches on the skin).

  • Psoriasis (fungal infection).

  • Shingles (viral infection).

  • Neurodermatitis (chronic itching or scaling).

  • Ringworm (parasite infection).

5. Cancer of the Skin - A new or changing spot on the skin is usually a cancerous itchy lesion developing. Occasionally the place itches, which is the sole reason a person notices it.

6. Various Disorders - Long-term itch can be a symptom of various disorders, including:

  • Diabetes.

  • Kidney failure.

  • Blood disorder.

  • Thyroid diseases.

  • HIV (human immunodeficiency virus).

  • The illness of the liver.

  • Hodgkin's lymphoma.

  • Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.

7. Allergic Skin Response - Several things can cause an allergic reaction. Nickel, which is found in many things we come into contact with daily, is one of the most prevalent chemicals that might produce an allergic skin reaction. Nickel-containing products include:

  • Cell phones.

  • Eyeglass frames.

  • Latex.

  • Jewelry.

  • Cement.

  • Zippers.

  • Belt buckles.

  • Nail polish.

  • Shampoos.

8. Response to a Plant - Poison ivy is well-known for generating an itchy rash.

9. Marine Life and Exposure to Water Bodies - Being in the water, such as an ocean, lake, or pond, can also cause an itchy rash. Swimmer's itch is caused by parasites found in ponds, lakes, and oceans. As the parasites burrow into the skin, little red areas are formed on the skin that the swimwear did not cover.

10. Age - Skin changes as we age; by age 65, the skin gets thin and loses moisture leading to itchy skin.

11. Medicine or Cancer Therapy - Certain medications, such as Aspirin, prescription-strength pain treatments known as opioids, and some blood-pressure medications, can cause itching. It is also a possible adverse effect of cancer treatment.

12. Nerve Issue - Itchy skin might occur when a nerve is not functioning properly. Itchy skin might arise if a nerve is damaged due to disease or injury. This itch usually occurs in one location on the body, and there is no rash. The following diseases can induce this type of itch:

  • Multiple sclerosis.

  • Shingles.

How Does One Get Relief From Itchy Skin?

  • Instead of scratching the skin, pat it or tap it.

  • Use a sensitive skin laundry liquid or powder.

  • Apply something cool to the skin, such as a moist cloth.

  • Use an unscented moisturizer or emollient on a daily basis.

  • Bathe or wash in cool or warm water.

  • Put on flowy cotton clothes.

  • Maintain clean, short, and smooth nails.

  • Using cold compresses.

  • Using Hydrocortisone cream or antihistamines over the counter.

  • Hydrate the skin by applying mild emollients, such as petroleum jelly, many times daily.

  • Capsaicin cream can relieve itching by triggering the release of substance P from type C fibers, desensitizing neurons in the skin.

  • Menthol and phenol are substances added to aqueous cream to deliver a chill sensation. This cooling sensation can help to alleviate irritation.

  • Topical corticosteroids relieve itching caused by inflammatory diseases.

  • Topical salicylic acid combined with topical immunomodulators such as Tacrolimus and Pimecrolimus may be useful in reducing itch. If the itching is severe, does not go away after a few weeks or has no obvious reason, consult the doctor. Other therapies, such as medications or light therapy, may be required. If there is an underlying condition causing the itching, treating it may help.

What Is Contraindicated in Itchy Skin?

  • Spend no more than a few minutes in the bath or shower.

  • Wear clothing that is not too tight or made of wool or synthetic materials.

  • Use no fragrant soaps, deodorants, or moisturizers.

  • Avoid scratching, wearing irritant textiles, and being exposed to extreme heat and humidity.

Conclusion

Itching is a vexing sensation that makes a person want to scratch badly. Constant itching can have a negative impact on a person's well-being. Therefore, specialized therapies can be resorted to when necessary, but general measures such as antihistamines and emollients are also beneficial. It is also a good idea to avoid contact irritants like wool or synthetic materials. Cold water or ice compresses are beneficial. Patients can help minimize dry skin and hence, reduce the itch-scratch cycle by taking these steps.

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Dr. Dhepe Snehal Madhav
Dr. Dhepe Snehal Madhav

Venereology

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