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Itchy Skin

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jun 6, 2022.

What do I need to know about itchy skin?

Itchy skin may interfere with your daily tasks and sleep. Treatment is important because constant scratching can damage your skin and increase your risk of infection.

What causes itchy skin?

  • Dry skin, or skin conditions such as dermatitis and psoriasis
  • A reaction to a new medicine or food
  • Medical conditions such as kidney disease, liver disease, thyroid disease, multiple sclerosis, and diabetes
  • Pregnancy
  • Viral infections such as mumps or varicella
  • Cancer or cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy
  • Bug bites or other problems with your skin

How is itchy skin diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms. He will ask if you have recently tried any new foods, creams, or cosmetics. He may ask if you have traveled, or been around people or animals that are sick or scratching. Your healthcare provider will examine your skin, abdomen, and lymph nodes. You may also need blood tests or skin samples to check for an infection or other possible causes of itchy skin.

How is itchy skin treated?

Treatment depends on the cause of your itchy skin. If you have a medical condition that is causing itchy skin, treatment of the condition will be needed. Treatment may include the following:

  • Medicines may help decrease itching or inflammation. Skin creams, such as steroid creams or anti-itch creams may also help.
  • Phototherapy , or light therapy, may help decrease itching.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

How can I manage itchy skin?

  • Take short showers in warm water. Avoid using hot water for your showers. Use only a small amount of mild skin cleanser.
  • Apply moisturizer or cooling creams after you bathe and throughout the day.
  • Use a cool mist humidifier to moisten the air in your home and maintain a cool temperature. Cool, humid air can decrease skin dryness and itching.
  • Avoid allergens and skin irritants. Do not use perfume, fabric softener, or makeup that irritates your skin. Use a mild detergent to wash your clothes. Wear loose cotton clothes and use cotton sheets. Avoid wool.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • Your itching does not improve or gets worse.
  • Scratching has caused your skin to be red or swollen.
  • You have new symptoms such as weight loss, fatigue, changes in urination, or fever.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2022 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.